The High Value of Cheap Counsel

Passing from Infancy to Manhood (Fractal Flame ref. round-100-2-212)

Back when I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, I availed myself of counseling services at the Center for Human Growth twice.

The first time was when I was an undergraduate living in the Collins LLC. The Center for Human Growth was nearby at that time, and at some point I became aware of them and decided it would be interesting to check it out. The Center offers low-cost counseling to anyone who needs it. I’m not sure if I had a pressing issue — that was twenty-some years ago, and my recollections are somewhat vague. I think I may have gone out of general principle. We could all use some counsel from time to time, as a matter of good mental hygiene. I might have been in the throes of breaking up with my girlfriend, or trying to quit smoking, or something else; I’m really don’t remember. I do recall feeling my series of sessions was extremely beneficial to my personal development, and I’ve been an advocate of counseling ever since.

A decade or so later, as my dad and I were struggling to come to terms, we sought counseling. First we went to a guy in private practice who was recommended by a friend. He was expensive. Probably his rates were standard, but he was much too expensive for me to share the cost, given my lack of income at the time. So my father was footing the bill. Dad didn’t like the guy much, and when the going got tough we almost foundered.

Fortunately we ended up back at the Center for Human Growth. Their fees were so low that I was able to pay a share, which felt much better. (I don’t remember what they charged in the 80s or 90s, but I see on their website it’s now $15 per session, which is extraordinarily cheap.) The sessions were not easy. It’s hard work to salvage a relationship. But the counselors were extremely helpful and very professional. I give a lot of credit to the Center for the fact that I’m still on speaking terms with my parents today.

I think this underlines the problem with counseling: It does tend to be expensive. It usually involves an educated person working with you one-on-one. The counselor has to charge a high fee to make a living. But for many people, spending a lot on counseling fees only adds an element of stress, at a time when they are likely most vulnerable and really don’t need that extra stress. So the benefits of counseling tend to be limited to the well-to-do, or those who are truly at the end of their rope. That’s my impression, anyhow.

In my utopian dreams, I imagine a world where we all visit counselors from time to time, from a very young age, and not just when we’re in crisis. Counseling is so beneficial that we should share the cost of underwriting it, to make it cheaply available to all. I think a proactive approach would have enormous benefits to society as a whole.

All these ruminations are a sort of preface to my query. Do we have anything like the Center for Human Growth in New Orleans? Given how often I’ve heard about the dearth of mental health services, I suspect that we do not. But if we do, I’d love to know about it.

Graphic: Passing from Infancy to Manhood (Fractal Flame ref. round-100-2-212) by Exper Giovanni Rubaltelli, licensed under Creative Commons


I’ve gotta give some props to Eric Spears for continuing to excavate such gems from his personal video collection. Here’s Christy Paxson Behind the Scenes at the Making of the Latest John “Cougar” Mellencamp Video.

Eric sez: “Between episodes of her access TV series, The Christy Paxson Show, Christy made several video shorts, and this is one of them. I sent a copy to MTV, but they never responded.”

This particular video cracks me up so much I can only watch about three minutes at a time before I’m racked with convulsive hysterical sobbing.


Three cheers for Steve Volan. He’s blogging again. He’s writing about a hot topic in New Orleans. And he’s the only person on the City Council that I look up to.

I mean that last part literally. They call him “Tall Steve,” and there’s a reason for that. Did I mention he’s on the City Council? In Bloomington, Indiana, that is. But trust me, the folks on the New Orleans City Council aren’t any taller.

Regardless of his physical stature, I’ve always been impressed by Steve’s towering intellect. I’d recommend his blog to anyone interested in local governance issues, especially as they play out in Bloomington, but also with an eye to bigger national and global issues.

In a recent post, Steve takes note of the current plan for a LSU/VA hospital. Even from a distance of 800 miles he can see the misguided nature of this plan. Why can’t our local leadership see as clearly?

I don’t share Steve’s inherent distrust of campuses. I suppose that’s because I work on a campus and love it. But I do understand where Steve is coming from. His perspective is undoubtedly influenced by the prominence of Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington. I think of Bloomington as a small (but sprawling) city wrapped around a big campus. When I moved to New Orleans I found the world I’s known inverted: Now I’m working on a tiny campus in the heart of a big (but shrinking) city.

The Lure of Bloomington

When we were stranded here three years ago, I was somewhat immune to the lure of Bloomington. I was focused on getting back to New Orleans and the tasks of rebuilding.

This time, though, I felt the attraction of the place as soon as we rolled into town. It’s an old familiar place that I love, a place I never wanted to leave. I know that in many ways, if we lived here, we might enjoy a higher quality of life than we do in New Orleans. We wouldn’t have to deal with this evacuation nonsense. The city has much to recommend it: great public schools, a great library, a great community radio station. The local paper has a section dedicated to “Eco News” every Friday. How cool is that? Seems like half the people I talked to were trying to gently twist my arm into finding a way back here. I found myself thinking that I could make it through the Indiana winters if I had a sauna.

I never wanted to leave Bloomington in the first place. But the general lack of economic opportunity drove us out. Bloomington’s labor market is dominated by Indiana University. There is a huge surplus of well-educated people. If Xy wanted to teach here, she’d literally have to wait around for someone to die. I suppose the main thing that keeps us in New Orleans is my job, which is the reason we moved there in the first place. I love my job, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway. We are beginning our drive back home to New Orleans today. I hope we don’t have to turn around and evacuate again for Ike next week.

Thanks to everyone for their kindness and hospitality.


I’ve been catching up with various friends and relations here in Bloomington. Met up with some roxlysters. Met up with Laura Dedelow, a fellow Gustavacuee. It was especially cool to meet Josh (goodhands) in person. And supercool to finally meet Lee (magic) in the flesh. Lee and I had a very near encounter three years ago, on the last day of our Katrina exile; we were thwarted by a tornado. He’s been working on the ROX 666 DVD project ever since.

But the biggest surprise came from my parents, who treated us to lunch today. They were here in Bloomington for a mysterious appointment. Turns out they’re selling their house in Morgan County and joining the Peace Corps. (Pending acceptance to the program.) I’m stunned and proud. My parents, the hippies.


Part of me wanted to get back home to New Orleans and gloat over the fact that we appear to have power while most of the city does not.

But I didn’t relish the idea of sitting in traffic with two million other evacuees all trying to get back home at the same time.

So when we got the news yesterday that neither Xy’s school nor mine will reopen until Monday, our evacuation turned into an evacucation. We decided to run up to Indiana for a few days and visit family. What the hell, it’s only 522 miles from Tuscaloosa, and we have four new tires.

So now we’re here. This is the first time I’ve been back to Indiana since we returned to New Orleans in November of 2005. Thus ends my life’s longest absence from the Mystical State.

If you’re game, meet us at the Upland Thursday night around 8 PM.

The Boboli Video

And now here comes a video from the unfathomable T Bill featuring Xy and yours truly at the Kroger grocery in Bloomington, Indiana, circa mid ’90s. I guess I gave this raw footage to T Bill when he visited years ago and then forgot about it. I never expected to see it again. But, lo and behold, he edited it together with some other appropriated video and posted it to YouTube yesterday. This was stuff we shot for ROX but never used. Never before seen! Enjoy.

Not Laughing Anymore

When I first heard about flooding in Indiana last week, and saw some pictures of IU students frolicking in the high water in Bloomington, with little indication of property damage or loss of life, I’ll admit I laughed. I used to live there, I’d seen canoes on Kirkwood before — I didn’t think much of it.

But now the situation has changed, as the rains keep coming. Seven or eight people have died, 29 counties have been declared disaster areas.

Suffice it to say I’m not laughing anymore.

Here’s a picture of my Dad wading. The water in this small lake on my parents’ property is overflowing the dam.

Walking the dam

Thankfully I don’t think they’re sustaining any real damage, but many others are not so lucky. Since we found refuge in Indiana when we were flooded out of our home in New Orleans, my heart really goes out to the Hoosier State now.

Bloomington Floods

Once again Mr. Magic writes with news of life in my former hometown:

I thought you might enjoy these pictures of the recent flooding in btown.

It was crazy here last night. I’ve never seen this town as wet in my life,

Maybe it can give you some comfort Katrina, as nobody is safe from flooding, even downtown Bloomington.

I found more pictures on Flickr:

Bloomington Flash Flood

Of course us folks in New Orleans have one universal reaction when we see pix like this:

How can those people live there?

Sorry, can’t help it. It’s become an ingrained reflex. From what I’ve read there was very little damage and no loss of life, for which I am glad. Stay dry, Bloomington.

DialAmerica Closes Shop in Bloomington, Indiana

Thanks to the Magic Man for pointing out this story in the Bloomington paper about the closure of the local branch office of DialAmerica Marketing. I worked there for seven long years. Truly it is the end of an era. Like the guy in the story, DM allowed me to keep body and soul together working part-time while I pursued my crazy dreams. To the dozens of people who are now out of a job with no advance warning — I feel for you.
Continue reading “DialAmerica Closes Shop in Bloomington, Indiana”


Something about traveling turns me into a tightass. I mean my bowels clench up and don’t want to move in a timely and convenient fashion. I’m usually a pretty regular guy, but traveling puts me off my routine. The result is that yesterday I was taking little mini-craps in nasty-ass toilets at gas stations and rest areas across the South and the Midwest.

We made it from Decatur to Bloomington without incident. We did run into some standstill traffic on 65 somewhere in Kentucky. That probably slowed us down for an hour or so.

We stayed with Xy’s family last night. Dined at the Uptown. Seemed as if everyone we ran into (and of course we ran into people we knew at every turn) was going to see a political documentary about the September 11th attacks which was showing at the Buskirk-Chumley. It was not Fahrenheit 9/11, but a film called Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of the American Empire. Pretty cool that they’re showing films in the theater; I remember being pissed off when Kerasotes deeded the place to the city because there was a stipulation about never showing films there. I’m sure if we lived in Bloomington we would have gone to see the film. Instead, we watched “Fat” on DVD.

I’ve been surprised at the coolness of the air, even in northern Alabama. It’s been so steamy in New Orleans that I couldn’t conceive of such temperatures, and I failed to bring a long-sleeved shirt. So this morning I drove out to the mall and and bought a sweatshirt at Sears.