Lagniappe

(or Is This My Home?)

This week I find myself in New Orleans, and so naturally, this idea of “home” continues to plague me.  I’m here for a work meeting, and the city is surprisingly quiet.  I went out to Café du Monde on the first night in town and I’ve never seen the place so empty.  Sure it was a Monday night, but even so, the French Quarter was all but deserted.  Perhaps it’s because it was a weekday, or because Mardi Gras season, while technically in effect, isn’t nearly in full swing yet.

img_2978I feel conflicted in a way being here.  The last time I was in Louisiana was 8 years ago, to say goodbye to the family home before my parents sold it and moved to another state.  I feel drawn to this city, the stomping ground of my youth, and yet also feel very disconnected from it.  But there are triggers for long-forgotten memories everywhere I look, everywhere I walk.  There is the Aquarium of the Americas, destination of many-a-school field trip.  There is the parking lot where we would always park on day trips to the city.  There are the Canal Street shops where my dad would buy his suits from Brooks Brothers.  There is where the Hard Rock Café once stood.  There is Jackson Brewery where we would buy trinkets from souvenir shops.  There is the plaza where the street dancers would perform.  There is the Riverwalk, once the site of the 1984 World’s Fair (which I did attend), and later a boutique shopping mall, and now, after a freightliner slammed into the building, after Katrina flooded it, sadly an Outlet Mall.  There is Café du Monde.  And St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, uncannily devoid of the fortune tellers and street performers.  And Central Grocery.  And Mother’s Po-Boys.  And Court of the Two Sisters with it’s legendary brunch.  And Pat O’Brien’s with it’s legendary dueling everything.

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Love Actually

(or Please Keep Your Bah Humbug to Yourself)

It has come to my attention that some people do not share in my love for the classic holiday movie Love Actually.  Now this is fine as we do not all have to share the same taste in movies – or anything for that matter.  But what I don’t get is the need to publicly bash this movie and let everyone, everywhere, know of your disdain for this one particular flick.  And it seems to me, completely unnecessary to hurl all this hatred towards a movie that is all about love.

If I could make just one wish for the new year, it would be that we fill this world up with love.  There is enough hate, there is no need to add to it.  So you don’t like the movie.  Then don’t watch it.  But there is no need to spew your hatefulness, to add to the toxicity that already exists or to bash the people who do like this quirky, silly movie about love.  Unless you are a professional movie critic, please keep your negative, bitter, smug comments to yourself.  No one needs to (or even wants to) hear your rantings.

I agree that the movie is a certifiable overstuffed holiday buffet – but for me, that means there is something for everyone.  The movie includes just about every kind of love: romantic, sexual, platonic, tarnished, dreary, reciprocated, intoxicating, neglected, unrequited, habitual, anomalous, parental, familial, friendly, true.  If you can’t find something to love from that list, then I question your ability to love at all.  So I just don’t get how a movie about love could be so polarizing.

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas

(or Caterpillars & Cucumbers, Confusion & Clarity)

I’ve got the idea of home on the brain again.  It’s probably not surprising, given the time of year.  Well-meaning friends and neighbors casually ask “are you going home for the holidays?” to which I can only reply “no, we are staying right here.”  But it is actually fitting because, for all intents and purposes, this is home now.  It’s the place I’ve lived the longest.  It’s the only home my boys have ever known.  Yet this idea of “home” seems to elude me, and gnaw at me, a kind of still unresolved story line.

My wife and I often play the “where should we move to” game?  I actually get unnerved when we do this because we just seem to talk in circles, feeling more unsettled each time we take up the discussion.  “If you don’t like where you are, just picture where you want to be” extols August “Auggie” Pullman in the movie version of Wonder.  It sounds easy enough, but this particular vision seems impossible to see.  Earlier this year we flirted with packing it all up and moving somewhere else, a kind of “anywhere but here” mission.  But in the end, the stars just didn’t align.  Job offers never materialized.  Negotiations stalled.  Dreams and desires and hopes collided.  It was as if the universe was clearly sending us a message.  We are meant to stay put, right here.  For now at least.

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So an Analyst Walks into a Bar…

(or What’s Love Got to Do With It?)

My absolute favorite part of the New York Times is the Sunday Style section.  It’s where I get to read my favorite column “Modern Love” and an advice column called “Social Q’s” and usually some juicy celebrity gossip.  It’s the one section that I love to read in print and will avoid online, even if an article pops up in the “Most Popular” or “Editor’s Picks” sections.

So last week, as I quickly perused the headlines over breakfast, an article on the front page of the Style section immediately caught my eye.  It was titled “Still Talking After All These Years” and it was a recap of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s annual conference held at the New York Hilton Midtown.  If I had known, I would have seriously considered crashing the “new attendees’ cocktail party” just for a laugh.  Although the mere thought of 1,600 analysts hanging out together for a week is somehow deeply disturbing, even if the Times writer described the mood as “effervescent.”

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This Little Light of Mine

(I’m Gonna Let It Shine?)

Once upon a time I loved to sing.  When I was little, before the age of 6, I would sing out loud, unrestrained, for all to hear.  I have a distinct memory of standing on the over-sized hearth in the family room of our new house in Mississippi, only a few weeks before Christmas when I was 5.  This was my stage, front and center, and I would belt out the new song I had just learned at my new school, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”  There was going to be a Christmas concert soon, and since I had only just arrived, I had to learn all the songs fast if I wanted to be part of the show.  And oh, how I did!  And so I practiced from my new stage, and sang my little heart out, despite the mixed-up feelings I had inside.

It is not lost on me now, as an adult, the irony of this particular choice of song being sung at a school concert in Mississippi.  “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is an African-American spiritual song, not something that I had even heard of in my native state of Texas.  But it was a Christmas carol staple in my new hometown, one where the public schools were still being forced in integrate in the 1980s and the KKK was a regular fixture on the street corner near our new home.  On our first trip to the grocery store, I wondered out-loud to my mother why those men were in their Halloween costumes when it was clearly Christmastime.  We had only moved 450 miles, but it felt like we moved into an entirely new dimension, backwards in time perhaps.  We were most definitely not in Texas anymore.

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Train Wreck

(or Next Stop: Purple Lake at Love Hall)

I started writing this post several weeks ago and then got distracted by life.  So much so that I had forgotten all about it.  So when I starting writing again and went to save my first draft, not surprisingly using the exact same document name as before, I was startled to get the pop-up warning “The file already exists.”  Really?  It does?  Clearly this is something that my psyche needs to set down.

There’s really no other way to describe it.  The past few months have been a spectacularly catastrophic train wreck.  I wish I could take credit for this adept analogy, but I didn’t come up with it.  Rather it was given to me by one of the therapists whom I consulted with at the beginning of the year.  Despite the multitude of red flags that went up before, during and after our meeting, she did leave me with this one nugget that I’ve turned over in my head many, many times.

My therapist’s life went careening off the rails last fall, and so much damage was left in the wake of that unforeseen disaster.  Every person connected to her was impacted.  The scene of the crash was quite horrific.  The train meant to safely ferry us from here to there, to a destination, was suddenly lying on its side, irrevocably damaged and unable to continue the journey.

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You Are Not Alone

(or This One Time, At Summer Camp…)

Twice a week, just after lunch, you can usually find me downstairs in the fitness center where I work, suiting up for yoga class.  We are very lucky that we have two wonderful yoga teachers, exceptional in their own right and not just by traveling corporate yoga teacher standards.  We have not had nearly such good luck with the substitutes, though.  There was the one who didn’t know the class was only 45 minutes, and had to bring everything to an abrupt end when the angry meditators assembled outside the door, impatiently waiting to be let into the room.  There was the one who simply ended the class without shavasana.  For those of you who are not yogis, this is practically sacrilege.  Many of us spend 40 (or more) minutes in practice twisting our bodies into strange poses and awkward forms just to get to those blissful 5 minutes of corpse pose that is promised at the end.  There was the one who was so overly obsessed with proper form I have sworn to turn around leave the class if she ever subs again, such was my irritation level at the end of the last class she taught.

And then there was the one who brought along a playlist unlike any other I have ever encountered in a yoga class.  It was bold and loud and so completely out of sync with what I need to practice yoga.  And then, about halfway through the class, a familiar tune rose up:

Another day has gone
I’m still all alone
How could this be
You’re not here with me
You never said goodbye
Someone tell me why
Did you have to go
And leave my world so cold

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