Nick’s Passing

Probably my oldest friend that I am still in regular contact with is J, famous to some as the bumbling bartender on ROX. I’m on a first-name basis with his family, though I haven’t seen much of them lately. I almost feel like they are a second set of distant relatives.

So it was particularly upsetting to learn that J’s dad Nick had contracted cancer. I’m not sure what type of cancer. Not the kind that gets better.

In the ninety-odd episodes of ROX that J and I have produced together, we have ranged over every subject that’s caught our interest. Whatever’s going on in our lives has become fodder for the show.

Even though we’ve touched on death in the abstract, we haven’t dealt with the passing of loved ones close to us.

Then Helen was killed, back in January of 2007, and I knew our next episode would have to account for her passing in some way. Frankly I was overwhelmed by that. Frozen. I couldn’t get started on that episode.

Then Nick came down with cancer, but also J & Day had a baby boy. And of course we had a baby too. And I came to see that our next episode would be about not just death but also life. Arrivals and departures.

Progress has been slow. We shot some video but the production been dogged with technical problems.

Meanwhile, J and Day and their infant son are traveling in China, a once-in-a-lifetime journey to cover a cultural exchange trip made by the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre. The timing has been difficult to say the least. Nick took the inevitable turn for the worse and passed away just two days ago, I believe.

I tried leaving comments at J’s blog, but it won’t let me. Somehow that seems appropriate. The technical problems with our video production, the glitchy internet connection via which J saw his father for the last time, my inability to comment on J’s blog, the cancer itself — it all seems of a piece to me.

I know Nick will be missed. What a fine, sweet man. I wish I’d known him better

You can see some frame grabs from his earlier appearances on ROX, or check out the video for ROX #65, “Flow.” Nick appears in a silly wig about three-quarters of the way through. (Of course there are technical problems. Video downloads are broken but the pop-up should work.) Rest in peace, Nick. And to J and Alan and Pat and everyone, my deepest sympathies.

Charter Amendments

Despite my sterling reputation for civic-mindedness, I hardly ever write to my representatives in city gov’t. It just doesn’t seem like a good use of time. But I did it today. I just sent a quick note in support of the proposed charter amendments that would give the master plan the force of law and give citizens a formal voice in the planning process. Those who were involved in the creation of the our Mid-City Plan or in the never-ending struggles over land-use decisions know how important this could be. Read on for more from the Urban Conservancy, an organization on whose board I used to serve.

Support the Charter Amendments Today

May 27 2008

New Orleans will soon begin work on a Master Plan and a new zoning ordinance to guide the city’s redevelopment and future growth. The in-depth studies and reports that have been generated since Katrina will serve as the foundation for this critical initiative.

For this highly-significant contract to have both an immediate and enduring impact, the New Orleans Home Rule Charter must be amended so that (1) the Master Plan, when completed, will have the force of law β€” that is, all public officials as well as private citizens will be required to follow it; (2) land use regulations – including the Zoning ordinance – as well as all capital expenditures will have to be consistent with it; and (3) all citizens will be legally structured into the planning process.

Read more on the UC website (includes list of e-mail contacts).

PS: Fielkow and Midura both wrote me back briefly to indicate their support for the amendments.

Explosions

My day started off with a bang. I’d just changed the inner tube on my bike because I ran over a screw the other day. First flat I’ve had in over a year, seems like. I pumped it back up, went to the sink to wash my hands and BANG. Really loud. Scared me. At first I thought the compressor on our new freezer had blown, or something crazy like that. It was the tube, of course. Had I simply over-inflated it?

So I drove to work. Xy didn’t need the car. I’m back on the java junk after six months or so of caffeine free living. But my second cup cooled off a little, so I stuck it in the microwave for a minute and BANG. Half the cup was splattered around the inside of the microwave. I’ve heard that can happen but never experienced it before. Later Janice noticed the microwave was not working any longer, so I unplugged it.

On the way home for lunch I picked up another inner tube. This time I checked the tire for any sharp protuberances. Didn’t find any. Pumped up the new tube. BANG. Again. Something about that loud noise makes the air look like it’s vibrating. I guess it is.

So I took the whole wheel in to my friendly neighborhood bike shop. They diagnose I need a new tire. So I get one, and I’m back in business.

Explosions. It seems like everything I touch today is blowing up.

But these incidents are nothing compared to the news that’s erupting through my computer. An old friend has been arrested. Another old friend’s dad died. Psychic explosions.

When I plugged the microwave back in, it worked.

Hike the Lafitte Corridor

What are you doing for National Trails Day? If you’re in New Orleans, please join us for the 4th Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor.

Hiking

It’s hard to believe this is the fourth such event. The first one only had three hikers and no fanfare. The second hike led to the formation of Friends of Lafitte Corridor.

We’ve advertising this one as absolutely the last chance to hike the corridor in its undeveloped state. Eventually this three-mile stretch of old railroad corridor will be a beautiful greenway with bicycle and pedestrian paths, parklike in places, tying together disparate neighborhoods and providing a great amenity to everyone in New Orleans. That grand scheme will take a while. But by the time we have our 5th Annual Hike, there’s at least gonna be some pavement in place, for at least a portion. That’s a promise.

The reason I’m so passionate about this project is that I have to be. It’s gaining momentum only because citizens — regular people like you and me — have gotten involved and pushed it forward. That citizen involvement is essential to the positive transformation of New Orleans, and this hike is a great way to celebrate that. It’s also a good way to learn more about the greenway project as well as the history and future of the city itself.

Plus, it’s fun. And there’s lunch.

Personally I am very excited about the fact that this year we’ve got an official sponsor: Massey’s Professional Outfitters. They’re a business right on the corridor, and their support for this event has been fantastic. They’ll be providing lunch as well as transportation back to the point of origin.

So here’s the details:

Saturday June 7
10:00 AM: Meet at main entrance to Armstrong Park (Rampart St.)
Noonish: Lunch at Massey’s (509 N Carrollton)
1:00 PM: Finish at Canal Blvd. Shuttle back to Armstrong Park

It’s a three mile hike, and the weather is sure to be hot, and parts of the path are overgrown and weedy. So dress accordingly, and bring some sunscreen.

Did I mention Massey’s is supplying lunch?

Hike the Lafitte Corridor Flyer

Please download the flyer and share with all your friends and neighbors. This is a grassroots effort and we need word-of-mouth.

Mark your calendar, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Sometimes

Sometimes it’s worth it. All the trouble, the endless meetings, the grant proposals, the paperwork, navigating bureaucracies, building consensus, wrangling volunteers, the phone calls, the e-mails, did I mention the meetings?

I started the Mid-City sign project last year, when I was serving as Communications Director for the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. We wrote a grant to Mercy Corps to enhance our outreach in the neighborhood. We did posters and flyers, but by far the biggest chunk of change was devoted to signs.

Mid-City Sign (back)

We commissioned a design from Madeleine Faust. Lili LeGardeur also helped with the conceptual phase. We asked Madeleine to do something unconventional, something funky, something that didn’t look like a typical neighborhood sign. We wanted a strong design, bold and defiant of convention, but also fun, artsy but not pretentious.

The design also includes a changeable hang-down part advertising our monthly community meetings. That was actually the primary rationale for the whole project.

We solicited bids from three local signmakers, and eventually went with Graffiti Graphics. (We found them through Stay Local.)

We commissioned six signs and started scouting locations throughout the neighborhood. We wanted to avoid a “gateway” effect, despite the fact that many neighborhood signs seem designed for that exact purpose. We didn’t want to draw boundaries. So we selected our locations accordingly.

That was the fun part. Then I tried to get approval from City Hall.

What a drag.

Six months later I was still trying, and my term on the board of MCNO was up. I decided not to seek re-election because of impending fatherhood. I handed off most of my responsibilities to others. I’m still their webmaster, but I was no longer riding herd on the sign project. A guy named Ben Claassen took over. He’s completing what I started, and over the weekend the first signs went up.

Sign

Xy spotted this one driving home from some errands Sunday. She was impressed at how good it looks, having been a bit of a skeptic. I immediately ran out to see it with my own two eyes, and take a picture.

I think the sign looks damn beautiful, with Jose Marti and the church steeple in the background.

There will be naysayers, I’m sure. A strong design will provoke strong reactions. Also, I wonder how the signs will weather. How will they look in a few years? And how long before one of them gets tagged with some graffiti?

But for now, I’m pretty happy. Sometimes it’s worth it. This is one of those times.

PS: I forgot to mention Jac Dudenhefer is helping Ben install these. At least I think he is. That’s the beauty of this thing. The torch really has been passed. I haven’t had to get my hands dirty because these two guys have been hitting it hard and heavy. Props to both.

Housecooling

We finally turned on the AC today as even the nights are getting quite warm. I like to make it to June 1st if we can, but this year not quite. This always strikes me as the saddest day of the year somehow. We now have five window units, at least three of which are the energy efficient kind and don’t even run their fans when the thermostat hits its mark. It’s now 8:00 and it’s hotter out there than it is in here. Sad, sad, sad. But the Boogaloo was pretty incredible, even though somehow I got sunburnt.

Louisiana in Play?

I was browsing through the January issue of Black Enterprise, and I was surprised to see a map on page 79 predicting the “states Obama can win in the primaries.” Surprised, because they predicted an Obama win in Indiana but not Louisiana. In fact, of course, the reverse was true.

I think I could have called those states correctly. Those are the two states I know (having lived in both) and to which I pay attention.

Of course, hindsight is perfect, so let me look forward. What about the general election? I think Indiana will not be in play. The Republicans have had Indiana locked up in presidential races for as long as I’ve been alive. Indiana will go to McCain. Easy call. Obama supporters in Indiana might as well not even bother to show up at the polls, because it’s winner take all.

But what about Louisiana? I think Louisiana might actually be contested. There was an article in the Feb. 9th Washington Times which states that Louisiana is “one of the Democrats’ best Southern chances in November” if Obama is the nominee. And I think that might be correct.

That would be interesting. In fact, come to think of it, it would be the first time in my entire life that my vote might actually seem to matter in the conventional sense.

I’ve voted for president five times, three in Indiana, two in Louisiana. In all five cases, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The Republican candidate won the state handily and took 100% of the state’s electoral vote. This was well known and well publicized before the election.

Therefore I never had any philosophical misgivings about “throwing my vote away” on hopeless third-party candidates. I sure as hell wasn’t going to vote for Bush or Dole or Bush. But why bother voting for Kerry or whoever when I knew he couldn’t touch Bush in this state? I didn’t need to bother with those “lesser evil” conundrums. I voted my conscience each time. In fact, I felt the only way my vote could conceivably count for anything was to show support for nascent third parties such as the Greens.

But if Louisiana is actually in play… Hmmm. I wonder if it will be.

Three Months

Persephone, I imagine some day you’ll be asking about your name. You’re only three months old now, so obviously it’s not exactly on your mind right now. But some day you’ll realize this name is at least a little unusual, not to mention confusing to some people, and you’ll wonder why we named you this. I find the myth of Kore/Persephone and her mother Demeter to be so endlessly fascinating, so rich and compelling that I imagine I could give you a hundred different answers, a thousand different reasons. But today I’ll try to boil it down to one.

The goddess Persephone has a dual nature. She’s both the Bringer of Spring and the Queen of the Underworld. She moves between two worlds and learns to be at home in both the light and the dark. That’s a powerful image, and it embodies my hope that as you grow you will not be afraid of the dark or dazzled by the light, that you will learn to embrace both and seek balance like the yin and yang.

A little too weird? Too poetic, too metaphorical? Well then: We liked the way the name sounds, and also we love pomegranates.


Strangely enough I was contacted by a young woman who shares your first and middle name and discovered your existence through the internet. I felt like I was talking to my little girl through a time warp and she was all grown up. Of course I had some questions for her. I was curious to know her experiences with the name. I also wanted to know if her parents were crazy. Here’s what she wrote back:

I go by Sephie, Seph, Persephone, PJ & P.Jean. I have been called Percy which is, ok, but it makes me think of the scarlet pimpernell. not a bad association, just a male one. πŸ˜‰

What is difficult is the folks who can’t hear my name. They call me Penelope, Priscilla or (per)Stephanie. The Stephanie/PerStephanie version is worst of all πŸ˜› It used to drive me completely insane. Not so much these days as I’ve grown up and know how to accept other people’s inability to hear/understand my name. It’s amusing how often I have to spell it for people. All this leadsto what I have come to know as I’ve become an adult and that is how much power this name brings me. When I am introduced to people they notice and automatically I am more memorable simply for the sake fo my name or they are the people who can’t hear it and that tells me something right away about how capable they are of seeig things they don’t expect to see in their environment. πŸ˜‰ When someone knows my name, knows how to spell it or knows the story behind it, that tells me something too, even if it is just that this person has read some mythology! I did go through a time period when I was younger (around grade 4-5) that I wanted to go by Jean but that didn’t stick and by the time I reached grade 10 I was thankful for the name Persephone. It was a seed which fueled in me a great love of mythos, legends and spirituality. I cannot say your daughter will have the same experience that I have had with the name but I am sure she will ultimately be blessed by it. :)

And, yes my mom is moderately insane but, basically she just liked the name. πŸ˜‰

We’ve already encountered the “Perstephanie” syndrome. I’m surprised she didn’t mention the “Purse-Phone” problem, where people try to read the name but sound like they’re talking about a cellular device in a handbag. If you’re anything like your dad, these things will drive you crazy for a while. Fortunately your mom will remind us to laugh it off.


Also, let me lay something to rest right now. I don’t buy into the notion that Hades abducted Persephone in a brutal and violent fashion. As Grian/Lee notes, it’s hard to believe that the priestesses of Persephone would have dedicated themselves to the deification of rape for thousands of years. I think that twist was grafted on by the patriarchal Romans or some later society. I don’t have the scholarship to back up my theory, but Grian/Lee seems to concur. And like Grian/Lee, I see Persephone as an image of empowerment and equality.

One more footnote: I’ve got to add this because it backs up my theory. According to Dr. Laura Strong, “There is no mention of rape in any of the early Greek texts, but we start to see its introduction with the coming of the Romans near the turn of the century.” For some citations in support of this, see her essay The Myth of Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld.

Back to Work

I’m back at work today after a three-month leave. It feels weird to be sitting in my office instead of taking care of baby or sweating some renovation details.

It seems today is also my boss’ birthday. Funny thing, her husband is a local blogger, but she doesn’t read his blog as a rule, just like my wife doesn’t read my blog. After a talk we had last year, my boss said she wouldn’t read this blog either, because we agreed it could produce some odd dynamics and also what’s the point of reading someone’s blog when you see them every day?

Of course, over the past months I haven’t seen much of my co-workers, so this blog may have been a good way for them to catch up on my life. But I do sincerely hope that my boss isn’t reading this now…
Continue reading Back to Work

It’s Like

We’ve been slowly re-occupying our full house. We’ve been living all cramped up in half of it for two and a half years. The other half, the lower floor, was under renovation for waaay longer than I’d expected. But the flood that caused our renovation also disrupted the lives of everyone we knew, including my friend the contractor.

Anyway, we’re finally able to expand back to our full capacity and I finally realized the metaphor that explains what it feels like.

It feels like I’ve been sitting down for a really long time and my legs have fallen dead asleep. And now I’m standing up and the blood is flowing back to those limbs. Prickling, needling pain and pleasure intermingled.

That’s exactly what it’s like.

Hospital Fire

I wanted to record before I forget that as Xy and I were coming home from an errand Friday, we saw there were lots of firetrucks clustered around Lindy Boggs Medical Center (aka Mercy). Later we learned that someone had broken in and started a small fire. [WWL has video.]

I further learned (through discussion with neighbors) that the physician’s group wanting to buy this facility is not giving up. Victory’s plans to demolish the hospital and build a shopping mall seem to be going nowhere, perhaps because of the national economic downturn.

There’s still that dirty deal Oschner made with Tenet that prevents the site being used for medical purposes for five years. Standard business practice, perhaps, but I say it’s a dirty deal for a community trying to recover from a catastrophe. Still, the clock is ticking on that limitation.

Every time I look at that giant abandoned complex I get angry. My daughter should have been born there, just a few blocks from our house. The flood and the machinations of money-grubbers have conspired against us.

But what really matters is that we don’t have to give up hope for the site yet.

Mother’s Day

I couldn’t afford a genuine Punic Persephone coin but I did find a cool pewter pendant. The face of the goddess is surrounded by a sheaf of wheat, representing Demeter, her mother. The perfect gift for Persephone’s mother on her first Mother’s day.

Xy calls it an amulet.

Amulet

Also, my Mom and Dad are visiting from Indiana. Seems like I haven’t seen them forever.