Summer solstice is coming up, and you know what that means. My band, Half Pagan, will be playing a show on the 21st of June. We’ll take the stage at Banks Street Bar at 7pm sharp. We’ll play a fairly short set, so come early and don’t blink or you’ll miss us entirely.
We’ll be rocking a few new jams and a few old favorites back at the Banks Street Bar. Join us in celebration of the longest day. I’m happy to report that for the first time our duo we’ll be joined onstage by some friends for a fuller sound. No cover for this show!
(Please be advised that Banks Street Bar is under new ownership. There’s a new website, but the old one lingers on, creating confusion. Same double identity problem on Facebook. Aiiee! To clarify, the new true site is banksstreetbarnola.com, and see @banksbar on the Book of Face. They’re on Instagram too.)
After the solstice, head north to catch me again on the 26th of June, as ROX returns to Bloomington, Indiana, for our Tarnished Silver Anniversary.
Yes, that’s right, this crazy TV show of ours has been in production for over 25 years. In fact, I just finished our 99th episode. But it’s taken us this long to get our second season online. Those are the shows we produced from 1993 to 1994, culminating with our most notorious episode, “J&B Get Baked.” At The Comedy Attic, we’ll be looking back at that second season of stupidity and playing some clips in a live unscripted performance. There will be drink specials and some weird surprises.
We are mere vessels, for the opening hymn comes from ancient Greece, in a new translation by Dr. Homan which aims to be faithful to the original text. The song that follows was originally written by Dark Sermon, an extremely heavy band from Tampa, Florida, and was released on their seminal 2015 album, The Oracle.
Please consider signing “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” See ecopagan.com
The vernal equinox approaches. Time to step into the light!
SECULAR SPIRITUALITY: Author Bart Everson will participate in a discussion with the theme “Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons?” from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie. The discussion will be moderated by Charlotte Klasson, board president of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. Everson will draw on ideas outlined in his book “Spinning in Place,” which presents a this-worldly approach to spirituality for the scientifically minded. (more)
PAGAN ROCK: As the live oaks release pollen, so Half Pagan releases a fine dusting of musical irritants to aggravate your soul. We finally got our first album done. Give us a listen at HalfPagan.com. Better yet, join us at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Dmac’s Bar and Grill, 542 S Jeff Davis Parkway, New Orleans. We’ll play the whole album, but it’s a short set, so don’t be late. And come hungry — Dmac’s has a fabulous kitchen! (more)
I’m super pumped to announce that I’m having my first solo exhibition.
Nope, this photo won’t be part of it. It didn’t quite meet my exacting standards of quality. However several other photos from the same site and other locations in Louisiana and Indiana will be featured. Come on down to the Lower Nine and take a gander. It’s at the Martin Luther King Library, 1611 Caffin Ave., and it’ll be up for the entire month of December.
The name of the show is After the Peak, and it’s a fantasy about post-oil America. Every schoolchild knows that fossil fuels are not renewable resources. Someday, we will run out. The question is when. Some say we’ve already passed the peak of production, while others say we haven’t reached it yet. Currently our species seems hellbent on extracting all the petrochemical deposits from the Earth’s crust as quickly as possible. That only hastens our approach to depletion. As I photographed abandoned gas stations and automobile dealerships, I imagined a future when all such sites are neglected and left to fall into ruin.
Friends, I’ve got a new podcast rolling. Literally.
It’s called Editor B’s Morning Ride to Work, and the concept is simple. I record a short segment as I ride my bike to work each morning. Each episode is five minutes or less. Just a little audio window into my world.
Subscribe via one of the major providers using the buttons below, or tune in directly on my Anchor station.
Veteran followers of this blog will recall that I tried something like this nine years ago. (Egad. Nine years?) The technical problems have been surmounted at last. As to the “general lack of interesting content,” well, that’s the challenge. That’s the draw. Tune in to see if I can pull it off, or if I wipe out. (Hopefully not literally.)
Then again, I’m more comfortable with silence than I was the first time round. Sometimes I get tired of this “chittering chattering blithering blathering bubbling babbling mind-boggling bullshit they call the Information Age.” Maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut sometimes and listen to the sounds rushing past me. That sounds refreshing.
After making landfall along the mouth of the Mississippi River, he blew to the east of us and made his second U.S. landfall around Biloxi. Even there I gather the damage was not severe. In New Orleans we got 1½” of rain and that was it. No high winds even. We never lost power and did not experience any flooding.
I’m glad of that, obviously. I’d rather prepare for a disaster that doesn’t materialize than be caught unprepared.
But don’t sneer at Nate. He is blamed for 38 deaths in five Central American countries. That number could rise; six people are still missing. This was another killer storm in a season that make break records.
I first heard about him as Tropical Depression #16, forming off the coast of Nicaragua on Wednesday. On Thursday morning I saw he had been named and was predicted to be headed straight for New Orleans. I contacted a friend in Memphis about the possibility of bunking there over the weekend.
But then I learned more about Nate. He’s a fast-moving son of a gun. He was expected to be in the middle of the Gulf Saturday, making landfall on the Gulf Coast in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and be all the way up in New England late Monday.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a storm that fast.
Contrary to what you might think if you don’t live in this zone, fast is good in some ways. A slow-moving tropical storm that dumps a ton of water can be worse for a flood-prone area than a fast-moving hurricane.
Because Nate is moving so fast, he may not have time to strengthen significantly over the Gulf. He’s officially a Category 1 storm right now, and not expected to get much stronger, though the latest update says maybe Category 2 by landfall.
Current estimates say New Orleans might only get a couple inches of rain, but we’re on the edge of a heavier rainfall prediction zone. If we get more, we could have some street flooding, but right now it’s looking like winds will be more significant. We could lose power, and it might be a long time before that’s restored.
Then again maybe Nate will blow to our east and this will be a non-event for New Orleans.
So we’ve stocked up on essentials and we’re preparing to ride Nate out. Xy is alternating between complete blasé and full-on panic. She seems to have no middle ground. Me, I’m trying to maintain an even keel.
There’s a postcard show at Skewer Gallery (located inside Kebab at 2315 St. Claude) which opens this Saturday, 9 September 2017. My daughter and I will have several postcards on display. (Mine all have an autumnal equinox theme.) All postcard art will be on sale for $5 with proceeds going to support L’eau Est La Vie Camp and efforts to stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Make it a part of your second Saturday art stroll. Have some dinner too.
I’m honored to be reading my work at Antenna Gallery at 3718 St. Claude on Wednesday, 13 September 2017, for Letters Read: Regrets. This series focuses on “current and historically interesting letters written by culturally vital individuals.” If I am known for anything, surely it is my cultural vitality. Free and open to the public.
Come out to Banks Street Bar on the autumnal equinox to catch the debut of Half Pagan — my musical collaboration with Michael Homan. That’s Friday, 22 September 2017 at 8pm. Come early, we’re playing a short set.
Speaking of the autumnal equinox, if you are in Bloomington be sure to snag a copy of the current issue of The Ryder magazine. I’ve got an article in there on the subject. The rest of you can read see it online or better yet buy my book — it will be at a reduced price (Kindle only) until the equinox.
Here’s a review of the essay from one reader, who happens to be my father-in-law:
Loved “The Other Equinox.” Truly entertaining and well-written, and of much interest indeed! I love the weave of the themes of metaphor and gratitude, and the notion of how a certain childlike innocence (trees as entities, etc.) might actually involve a higher truth. Most of all, I loved the way it came off as highly intelligent yet down to earth. Done your pappy-in-law proud, son!!!
The corridor carved out by the greenway is almost as old as the city itself. Cutting through the center of the city, it connects Bayou St. John and the Mississippi River. It has always been used for transport, whether via portage by the first settlers to the region, via canal in the 18th century, or via railroad in the 19th and 20th centuries. By the 1970s, rail transport in the city shifted to other lines; the ties were pulled out, and soon, this strip of land became a vacant, overgrown field. Then a guy named Bart Everson came along.
One year after Katrina, catalyzed by a desire to revive a destroyed city, Everson and friends bushwhacked their way through the path. That homegrown effort coincided with a sudden surge of federal funding aimed at rebuilding New Orleans, and—importantly—making it smarter, greener, and more sustainable. The city got on board with the idea of turning the old railway into a trailway, and even repurchased some of the land that had been sold. With funds from city coffers and private donations, in 2015, 10 years after Katrina, and under the guidance of a contractor, design workshop, and extensive planning process, the Lafitte Greenway opened.
I have to say I’m honored to be known as an urban bushwhacker.
As flattering as it is to be singled out, my natural humility and modesty requires me to add that I didn’t do it alone. My “friends” included a diverse and numerous coalition of people and frankly they did all the hard work.
Truth be known, I’m more of a bushslacker than a bushwhacker.
I recently made a trip to Indiana, as is my wont in the summertime. While I’m up there I always try to stir up some trouble. Some of my attempts are more successful than others. International Flag-Burning Day was a bust, for example.
But there is evidence that some of my other provocations were more successful. Audio evidence. These two pieces aired on WFHB yesterday.
Bart Everson, from Local TV Slacker-Provocateur to Atheist Religion Author ~ less than ten minutes ~ “This month marks the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Rox, arguably the most controversial show ever to air on public access TV in Bloomington. The program generated outrage and calls for its removal during its heyday in the early and mid 1990s. It has also been one of the most popular programs on Community Access Television Services.WFHB News Director Joe Crawford caught up with one of the producers of Rox, Bart Everson, who recently returned to Bloomington in support of a new book.”
Standing Room Only: Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons? ~ almost an hour ~ “On July 7, Bart Everson spoke about eco-spiritual practices at The Venue in Bloomington. A longtime atheist, Everson emphasized the celebration of living on Earth and the process of becoming better citizens of the planet. Much of Everson’s talk revolved around ideas also found in his book Spinning in Place: A Secular Humanist Embraces the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.”
EVENT: Sunday, July 9, 2017, 4-6pm at The Venue, 114 S Grant, Bloomington, Indiana
This summer, join me for a community discussion on the question, “Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons?” Held at The Venue in Bloomington, Indiana, the event will be moderated by longtime local journalist Mike Leonard. Light refreshments will be served.
The discussion will revolve around the same ideas which inspired my book, Spinning in Place, outlining a worldly approach to spirituality for the scientifically-minded.
As a longtime atheist, I’m skeptical of many expressions of religiosity. But over the years I’ve learned to see much of value in religion as well. To be fully human, we must be open to the full range of human experience. I wrote this book to show one way that humanists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and skeptics might celebrate what it means to be alive here on this planet. Further, by placing a focus on the natural world, we can learn to be better citizens of the Earth.
I’m known in the Bloomington area for my role in the controversial television series, Rox, which debuted on cable there 25 years ago this summer and became the first TV show on the internet shortly thereafter. Rox was honored by a mayoral proclamation from Mark Kruzan in 2013. Now, I’m honored by the opportunity to return to Bloomington and speak about eco-spiritual practices.
The composition process felt like torture. I fully expected it would require serious revision, but it was accepted and published as-is in the collection Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral: Men in Ritual, Community, and Service to the Goddess (2016, Immanion Press). It’s been a year, and now it can be republished electronically, so I’m gratified to share this via Return to Mago.
I’m super excited and frankly stunned to learn that I’m the winner of the Sherman Chaddlesone Flash Fiction Contest. My story, “Kerry Was in the Kitchen, Cooking” will appear in the next issue of the New Plains Review. It’s a great honor, only my second fiction publication, and the cash prize doesn’t hurt right now either.
It took my protagonist, Kerry, a while to get here. In fact, I wrote this 1000-word vignette 25 years ago. Maybe 26. As far as I can recall, only one other person ever read this story till now. Maybe two. I’m a little hazy on the details.
Anyhow, I’m sure glad I recovered that file from the Brother WP500 diskette on which it languished for so long.
There’s a lot more where Kerry came from…
Photo by Jeremey Keith, licensed under Creative Commons.
Just in time for May Day — I’m proud to announce the launch of NaturalPagans.com, a new site that aggregates relevant postings from various bloggers who share a naturalistic Pagan worldview.
I feel like those terms deserve some clarification. Bear with me. Last week, I was honored to give a guest lecture at Loyola on the topic of “Ecology & Religion: A Naturalistic Pagan Perspective.” It was my most concerted effort to date to communicate a worldview and spiritual approach that is not just an intersection of naturalism and Paganism, but a coherent whole, or at least a tightly-coupled integration of the two. So I’ve been mulling over basic terms and definitions.
There are many different definitions of naturalism, but one of my favorites is the shortest and pithiest. It’s the idea that nature is enough, to borrow from the title of a book by Loyal Rue. Nature is enough to account for the meaning of our existence. In the domain of religious expression, nature is sufficient for reverence. Naturalists tend to believe that science is one of the most reliable ways to learn about the world.
The term Pagan derives from a very old Latin term meaning “bumpkin” or “hick” and referred to people in the countryside who clung to the old ways long after urban centers had converted to Christianity. Today it’s used also to denote a family of religious orientations, many of which are described as “Earth-based,” “Earth-centered,” or “Earth-honoring” spiritual paths. While many of these hearken back to ancient traditions, they are mostly new. Some scholars date Neo-Paganism in North America to 1967, which makes it the same age as me.
You might think that these two things (naturalism and Paganism) fit together hand in glove. Perhaps they did, once, but these days there seem to be plenty of Pagans who relate to gods and goddesses as supernatural beings. There’s probably also plenty who just don’t think too much about such matters. For those of us associated with this project, however, naturalism is crucial.
So…. as a friend recently put it, I’m “basically a nature worshiper.” You could call me a devotee of Mother Earth or Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth. But what does it mean to speak of a “goddess” anyhow, for a naturalist? I understand that language as nothing less than a powerful metaphor which expresses my hopes and desires for a more reverent way of living in peace with all my relations.
I’m honored to have work featured in Return to Mago. It’s an online magazine dedicated to “the Primordial Knowing originating from the Great Goddess, Mago.”
Here’s more about the Magoism mission:
Our vision and intention is to advocate for feminist and spiritually-based activism and to promote creative and scholarly work that supports the awareness of the oneness of all entities in the universe. Our hope is to reclaim the WE in S/HE, uniting all beings across differences of gender, culture, race, ethnicity, class, ability, and species. In doing so, we seek to create a world that is non-ethnocentric, non-racist, non-capitalist, non-imperialistic, and counter-patriarchal.
A tall order to be sure, but I’m fully on-board. I’m doubly honored to be one of the few male contributors to the magazine. You can find my contributions tagged under my name. Check it out.
Hopefully you’ve been following my column on Mid-City Messenger, now into its second year. I’m doing my best to keep up a regular weekly rhythm, with fresh content every Monday, alternating between prose and photos. I’ve now got my own tag on the site, so check it out.
As I draw on to the end of my fifth decade, I’m feeling reflective. Indulge me in a little reminiscence, and by all means come to my birthday party. What follows is part four in a series; read about my first, second, and third decades on Mid-City Messenger.
Stone Cold 97
My fourth decade kicked off with a knock-down, drag-out, protracted dispute between my father and me. We worked through many longstanding resentments and misunderstandings in counseling sessions that went on for the better part of a year. As part of the deal, we both agreed to swear off drugs, including alcohol and tobacco but not caffeine or cough syrup, thankfully.
And so it was that I found myself stone cold sober at my 30th birthday party.
Somehow I convinced my father to join me in publishing an online journal over the course of 1997. We posted our intimate thoughts on drugs, alcohol, and our relationship. It was, in fact, a blog — though that word wasn’t coined until a year or two later. It’s still online for anyone who’s curious.
After much effort, my father and I managed to salvage our relationship. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. We’re still friends.
My grandmother passed away that summer, the last of my grandparents.
In the fall, Christy got a job teaching in Indianapolis, and we moved out of the garage. I got wind of a new graduate program at Indiana University, through the Department of Telecommunications: the Masters in Immersive Mediated Environments, or MIME for short. My work with ROX got me in the door.
MIME offered a wide-open approach to new media. For my master’s project I combined forces with my wife to launch The All New Christy Paxson Show, a transmedia spectacular which included a series of web animations detailing “The Life of Christy.” It’s still online for anyone who’s curious.
Meanwhile, I filed a personal bankruptcy. I’d acquired $24,000 of credit card debt, covering basic living expenses during the ROX years.
Around this time I was in conversations with some folks at Free Speech TV about the idea of launching a website which would allow users to upload their own videos. Basically, our idea was YouTube — but we never launched.
Things were pretty rough for Christy in Indianapolis. One of her students died in a house fire. We sent out a card that December with the grim inscription, “Unhappy Holidays.”
Before I knew it, graduation loomed. I asked Christy if I should look for work globally. We both loved Bloomington, so this was a tough call, but in the end I applied for jobs all over the country.
I scored exactly one interview, and it changed my life. In February of 1999, I flew down to New Orleans for an interview at a certain HBCU. I had purchased a pair of shoes for the occasion, only they weren’t brand new. They were from the Salvation Army. Much to my chagrin, they began to disintegrate during the day of interviews and meetings. Little chunks of sole were crumbling off and littering the carpet. I was probably hired because they felt sorry for me.
We moved down here in May, and nothing’s been the same for us since.
To me, the experience of being in NOLA is inextricably intertwined with the experience of working at that HBCU that hired me, and of riding my bike to campus every day. All three have been very good for me. I immediately felt “at home” even though I was an outsider.
Things haven’t been so good for my long-suffering wife. She thought the Indianapolis public schools were rough, but here in New Orleans she discovered a whole ‘nother level. I was stunned when she came home from a meeting where teachers were advised to use the Bible to solve their discipline issues. Make sure you got a big thick edition, so when you hit your students they can really feel it!
The world population hit six billion in late 1999. Fears of a “Y2K bug” apocalypse proved unfounded. We moved from our pricey apartment in the Warehouse District to a cheaper rental uptown. I left some frozen chicken in the trunk one day, but that’s another story. I started producing an experimental TV series called no.rox.
The Nader campaign was ramping up and I got involved with a group of people trying to form a Green Party of Louisiana. We eventually held our founding convention in 2002 and officially qualified with the Secretary of State in August of 2005, just weeks before you-know-what.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A new millennium
Technically the 21st century began in 2001. I made a return trip to Scandinavia, for a conference in Finland. Terrorists flew planes like bombs into buildings that September, in a ploy to provoke war between Islam and the West. ROX went back into production, albeit at a much slower pace.
We bought a house in Mid-City. I’d feared my bankruptcy would be an obstacle, but it wasn’t. The financial system was more than happy to welcome me back to a lifetime of debt.
Blogs became a thing. My employer implemented a new electronic timekeeping system, prompting me to start my first blog (as such), Pride Before Kronos. It’s still online for anyone who’s curious. I’ve been told it played a role in changing our policy. The experience was so powerful it motivated me to start my personal blog, b.rox, in the spring of 2004.
Service was restored to the Canal Streetcar line after a forty-year interruption, and the first car rolled just two blocks from our new house. There were also a number of street murders nearby that year. In once case we knew the accused shooter, who later turned himself in.
In May of 2005, I hiked the length of the Lafitte Corridor with a couple friends. I was stunned by the potential of this abandoned rail-line, and I started researching how to spearhead the a project of turning it into a trail.
We declared that summer to be “The Summer of Christy” and we celebrated all summer long. As we vacationed in the Ozarks, we tackled the question of reproducing. We decided to give it a whirl. Christy went off the pill, and we even planned our first official go at conception. It was to be at our friends’ wedding under the Brooklyn Bridge on Labor Day weekend. Well, not at the wedding ceremony itself, of course.
But we never made that trip.
Katrina and what came after
I used to think of the year I lived in Sweden as the worst in my life, wrought as it was with teen angst and personal conflicts and the pain of apostasy, not to mention that cold dark winter near the arctic circle. However, the next sixteen months were worse — from when Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, right up to the end of my fourth decade on this planet.
We ended up spending almost three months in Indiana, and I’m ever grateful to the community of Bloomington for their hospitality. I made a couple trips back to New Orleans during that time, sneaking into a closed city on the first trip, gutting the lower floor of our house on the second. When Christy joined me for our final return, tornadoes and snow flurries chased us away from the Midwest — as if to say, get back down there to New Orleans.
We crashed for a while on a friend’s couch in the Irish Channel. But what I remember most is when we moved back into our house in Mid-City. We were the only people living in the immediate area. In that dark December, the only lights for blocks around were the oil lamps we used to play Scrabble.
In January of 2006, on my 39th birthday, all the universities re-opened. For my money, this was the single most hopeful moment in the recovery of the city.
It was a long hard slog. Living in the flood zone, surrounded by devastation, we lost all touch with what might be considered normality. I drank heavily. And participated in endless planning processes.
There were bright spots along the way, and I clung to each one. Seventeen people showed up for something I billed as the “second annual hike” of the Lafitte Corridor, and the group known as Friends of Lafitte Greenway was born that day.
Picking up our discussions before the storm, Christy and I decided to start trying. She got pregnant almost immediately but then suffered a painful miscarriage. That was surely one of the worst days.
Though it all, I kept at my blog, writing as if my life depended on it. Maybe it did. Before the storm I read people from around the world; now I wanted only to read locals, and I discovered I was not alone. A community of bloggers emerged. On the first anniversary of Katrina there was a conference put on by the local blogging community, Rising Tide, the first of ten annual meetings to consider the future of New Orleans.
And then the worst thing ever happened, a tragedy so cruel I can still hardly wrap my head around it. On the fourth day of 2007, Helen Hill was murdered in her own home. A talented artist and the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet, Helen was also a personal friend. The murderer was never publicly identified, and no one was ever arrested for this heinous crime.
I grieved for Helen deeply, and I still do, but her untimely passing affected me in another, very unexpected way. The murder of Dinerral Shavers combined with Helen Hill to produce an unprecedented level of community outrage, and the largest protest in the history of the city was organized. I found myself invited to join a dozen speakers at a massive rally at City Hall.
This experience changed me forever, but that would only become evident in my next decade. As my 40th birthday approached, I found myself in a distinctly non-celebratory mood, questioning why I’d moved back to New Orleans.
Stay tuned for the surprising twists and turns of my fifth decade.