Forty-Seven Months

Dear Persephone,

Happy Dreams

You are forty-seven months old today. A few weeks ago I mentioned to you that I was writing these letters, and you were intrigued. What are they about, you wanted to know. I told you that, in part, I try to record some of the things that you’re doing so that you’ll be able to know about them years after you’ve forgotten. You started listing some of the things that you do, so I wrote them down. The rest of this letter was composed by you, with very little prompting on my part. I merely transcribed your words.

  • Swimming.
  • Watching TV called the Wiggles. Watching cartoons
  • Helping Mama make pancakes.
  • Helping Dada bake bread.
  • Cutting scissors at school.
  • Drinking.
  • Do work at school with pretty colored markers, and they don’t have any brown, and they don’t have any gray, and gray is your favorite color right?
  • Praying at school.
  • Helping Mama and Dada going to the grocery
  • Take colored baths with those little fuzzy tablets.
  • Pretend I’m sailing in the bathtub.
  • Going to ballet class.
  • Go to a ride at the mall.
  • Riding in the car with Mama and Dada.
  • Smacking the washcloth. I’m giving it a spanking. The washcloth is being bad, Daddy. He doesn’t know it’s bath time.
  • Washing my hair without soap.
  • Praying to Jesus and to baby Jesus. We even got a colorful statue of him at school.
  • Make projects — letter people projects on paper that have already been lined.
  • Praying to Mother Earth.
  • And one day I saw Dada get his hair cut. I just peeked my head in. No one saw me but you Dada.
  • Coloring Brigid.
  • Watching TV called Dora.
  • Taking a snowflake bath one in my sparkling purple seltzer water. The snowflake made that.
  • Sleeping with Quiet Bunny.
  • I don’t want to put anything about Lala and Lily.
  • Always I say why, why, why. I don’t know why. Ha ha. See, I’m saying why now.
  • My favorite letter is P. I don’t know why I’m saying why.
  • I’m making up my own recitals, Dada. Some people even make fun of my recitals. I’m pretending you make fun of my recitals.

Postscript: For more daughter-authored content, see the Tea Party video.

XLV

Here I am on my 20th birthday, with my mother and sister.

Birthday XX

My hair was thicker then.

That was 25 years ago today.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve contemplated my mortality on an almost daily basis, yet I’ve often behaved as if I think I’m immortal. I’ve frequently envisioned myself as an old man, while clinging to an extended adolescence.

Those aren’t really the contradictions they might seem to be at first. Nor do I think of myself as particularly morbid. In fact it makes perfect sense if you look at it the right way. Youth and age are linked. Life and death are not mutually exclusive. They are necessary correlates. You can’t have one without the other.

An acute sense of my own mortality has stimulated me to live life fully. It has given me the impetus to courage when I needed it.

Yet time marches on, and I’m no longer young. I’m somewhere in the middle of life, or so I hope. I’m happy to have made it this far, and with any luck I’ll have some ways to go before my inevitable demise.

A game I play at each birthday is to double my age and see what that sounds like, to think about what it means to be halfway there. So now I am halfway to 90, and for the first time I have to admit that’s a pretty intimidating number. For the first time, I have to admit I may not make it that far. My great-grandfather Paul Hollmann did, and then some. But you don’t see a lot of 90-year-olds over six feet tall. Maybe us tall types bump our heads too often. And so for the first time (ROX #88 notwithstanding) I have to admit, I may be past the halfway point of my natural lifespan.

On each birthday I have also gotten in to the habit of taking stock of how my body seems to be holding up, and generally congratulating myself on feeling young. When I turned forty, I said to myself that I felt like I could be thirty. I could be twenty. That era has ended. I’d mark the change as beginning around my 43rd birthday but as with any long slow process, it’s hard to be exact. I’ve never been especially robust; I’ve always had my aches and pains. But they have started to accumulate. The challenges faced to my lower left extremity are a case in point.

I’m getting my first hints of what life will look like through the other end of the telescope. When I was younger, I’d suffer sudden visions of my old age, almost overwhelming in their visceral clarity. When I am truly old, if I should live that long, perhaps I will be haunted by my youth, just as in my youth I was haunted by my dotage.

Right now, though, I’m in that gray middle place. Middle aged. Middle class. A little thicker in the middle from accumulating belly fat. That’s a lot of a middle for a guy who claims to value the periphery over the center.

I still get the willies when I contemplate my mortality, but I have to admit it doesn’t thrill me like it used to. Part of that may be parenthood. There is now someone else to worry about and care for, someone for whom I’d lay down my life without hesitation. That’s represents a profound shift, and it’s dulled the edge of the old fear considerably. But I’d also like to think that I’ve grown somewhat more accepting of life’s natural cycle.

Enough of that. I’ve survived another year, and that is of course a cause to celebrate. I was in a bit of a slump for a few years there: My birthday tended to suck, and I didn’t care. But last year my birthday was a blast, and this year I’ve actually got presents. I baked myself a savory cake for dinner tonight and some clove cookies to share with my co-workers. I’ve got to work late, but it’s a meeting of the Saint Katharine Drexel Book Club, so that’s a pleasure.

Somber Reflections

It was five years ago today that I got the terrible news that Helen Hill had been murdered in her home. She will not be forgotten.

A few months ago I had the decidedly bittersweet pleasure of viewing Helen’s final film, The Florestine Collection, which was completed by her husband Paul Gailiunas. A true labor of love, the final product is a really fine piece of cinema. It was a trip to chat briefly with Paul at the screening, as I never thought I’d see him in this city again. I regret I wasn’t able to spend more time catching up with him, but parental responsibilities intervened.

I suppose this would be a fitting time to mention that ROX #96 is finally complete. (Read my production notes if you are not clear on the connection.) We’ve broken the episode into three parts for online viewing. Part 1 touches on Helen’s passing. Watch it now.

Meanwhile, what of the city and the persistence of violent crime? I can’t say it any better than this missive from SilenceIsViolence:

Today begins a month of somber reflection, and of focused rededication, for the community-led movement that has come to be known as SilenceIsViolence. Five years ago on this day, local musician Dinerral Shavers was murdered as he tried to protect his family — and a week of cruel, relentless killing took hold across our city. When another beloved local artist, filmmaker Helen Hill, was shot in her home one week after Dinerral’s death, the Times-Picayune declared that “Killings Bring the City to its Bloodied Knees.” For once, such a headline did not seem overly sensationalistic.

The city banded together after that week in early 2007, marching together by the thousands to City Hall, and demanding that city leadership do more to support victims, to fix a broken criminal justice system, and to partner with a population frankly desperate for a safer, more civil city. City leaders stood, and listened, and vowed to make the homicide crisis their #1 priority.

Five years later, where are we? Sadly, in a city that is, if anything, less safe than before. The homicide rate has climbed steadily over the past year, and for the first time since 2007 we risk losing 200 of our residents to murder this year. Beyond unacceptable, this situation in a city our size is actually insane.

From time to time, city leadership utters the same vows we heard in 2007: that safety is the #1 priority, that proactive services for vulnerable young people, and support for victims and their families, are a city-wide focus. But those vows are starting to sound pretty empty.

Certain families do receive support. They are the families of victims like Dinerral and Helen — victims who, for whatever reason, grip the public’s attention and the media’s concern. But in the five years SilenceIsViolence has spent working with victims outside that spotlight, we have seen hundreds more who never receive material, emotional, or basic logistical support in the aftermath of their loss. Most victim families have a hard time even reaching their own homicide detective or prosecutor by phone. Meanwhile, the first thing we now learn about victims of violence from the police and the media — and often the only thing these families will ever see in print about their loved one — is a prior arrest record. This without consideration of the severity or relevance of these records, or even of whether the arrests were ever tested in a court of law. And without the slightest compassion for the families that must read these postings, and whose sense of betrayal and further eroding trust in the system is eating away at any chance of constructive community/system collaboration.

Last week, many of you answered our call to support these forgotten victim families. You sent contributions that have purchased clothes and food for sisters and brothers of those lost; furniture for witnesses who must independently relocate; and childcare for parents who have lost a partner. Thank you for your unquestioning compassion for those in need. Tragically, this need only increases with each passing day, and we invite the support of every concerned citizen who is able to give something to a traumatized family. We are happy to connect you directly with those families, or you can make a tax-deductible contribution to SilenceIsViolence, and we will distribute 100% of the donation for you. Those who contribute $75 or more will be recognized as “Peace Agents” for 2012, and will be invited to participate in our annual second-line parade, to be held on April 1 of the coming year. You can donate or reach us for family contact information by visiting our website, www.silenceisviolence.org.

Over the coming month, as we approach the annual Strike Again Crime (January 23-28), SilenceIsViolence will seek to re-engage our city in remembrances and efforts on behalf of these who are victims of, or vulnerable to, violence. Each week, we will tell you individual stories about the families we serve, and the victims they mourn. These stories are compiled in a Victim Allies Project report to be released at the end of January, including data detailing our findings over the past year with respect to law enforcement, criminal justice, and other official civic interactions with these families.

Details about Strike Against Crime week activities will be forthcoming over the coming weeks, as well. Meanwhile, thank you once again for your support during a year that has been very difficult for all of those who desire a more respectful and safer New Orleans.

Please join me in supporting SilenceIsViolence.

Mixes for a New Year

So there’s another year gone. This was sure an interesting one from the planetary perspective, what with all the the revolutions and the Occupy movement. I remain skeptical, but also cautiously hopeful, that anything will come of all this foment in the long run. We desperately need revolutions, but are these the revolutions we need?

I will also remember 2011 as the year of Project Conversion, “twelve months of spiritual promiscuity” by a guy named Andrew Bowen. Simple concept, one new religion each month, lived and embraced with a genuine desire to understand. I first mentioned PC at the halfway point, six months ago; now it’s complete, and I feel like I’ve learned and grown from it. I found his journey inspiring, and it has influenced my own. By way of expressing my gratitude, I put together a tribute mix, featuring one track for each of the twelve religions Andrew explored.

It was a holy chore chasing down some of those tracks but I am happy with how it came out. I tried to aim for toward traditional sounds rather than contemporary stuff.

I think finding the Zoroastrian track was the hardest. Also, a quirk of 8tracks is that it will only let each listener hear the tracks in the specified order the first time. This is for convoluted legal reasons. Which is a shame because in this case the order will matter to anyone who’s been following PC for the past year.

And because I’m in New Orleans, the first and last tracks are from local artists. Strange but true.

(As a bonus, I threw together a little Gregorian Chant mix in honor of the final month, Catholicism.)

Of course the year wouldn’t be complete without a mix of my favorite 2011 releases. And here’s another tribute mix, my pick of the hits posted to Fluxblog over the past year.

But as a rule I’m not particularly focused on new music. Who cares if it was released in the last year or not? And so, I offer the personal discoveries from 2011 which excited me the most. Among them: Exuma (thanks to the American Zombie), Fikret Kızılok (thanks to Ghost Capital) and of course the late great Damien Tavis Toman (visit The Memorial Society).

Enjoy, and by all means let me know what you think.