Monday, March 23, 2009

L Follows M

I've been thinking about this for days now, quietly, alone in my house, occasionally finding myself weeping for what would seem to be no reason. Crazy, menopausal bitch. Probably too much or too little estrogen.

Then it hit me.

After Katrina, I wrote emails to friends and family about the state of things here at that time. Using a shared generator for one hour a day as long as the gas held up and using a dialup connection to AOL via a New Mexico number. Those emails got forwarded and forwarded until the email list was completely outrageous with people asking to be added, sending wonderful encouraging letters, telling me to keep sending them. I did this in a vacuum. First the vacuum of no power (the phone line worked), then the vacuum of National Guard roadblocks. Polimom, in Texas, became my liason to others in this area. I knew nothing of blogs.

Finally in March of 2006 I sent out the last email, transferring my communication to the blog format, in great part thanks to Poli's urging. I had no idea what I was doing. So I just started writing whatever came to mind. I also had no idea that there were other New Orleans bloggers, at least not then. I started a second blog, and reposted the emails under the Katrina Refrigerator blog banner (although lately some others have shown up and remain unposted.)

Little by little other New Orleans bloggers found me, sent comments, communicated in email, but they were all just screen names then. I was invited to the first Rising Tide conference. Feeling entirely out of my depth, I ante-ed up the fee and went. I took a steno pad and pen, sat on the floor, surrounded by a sea of laptops and people spouting tech terms. I was a fish out of water, but intrigued.

As I walked in the door, a man who struck me as a human Tasmanian Devil approached me. He introduced himself to me as Loki. He talked rapid fire, told me he'd read what I was writing, told me about himself. We found out we had similar backgrounds in music production. He did six things at once, talking all the while, making me laugh and laughing with me. I told him I wasn't sure I belonged at that conference. His response: "Oh bullshit. You signed up, you paid, you're here. You're kinda stuck with us now." I was stunned and laughing. "I'll catch ya later and buy you a drink or two," he said and kinda shoved me into the sea of laptop room. He whispered, "And we GOTTA talk about the music stuff! We'll share stories!"

There was now a breach in my little vacuum. And it was cool.

I met several other local bloggers that day, tentatively smoking a cigarette outside, finding out which screenname went with each human face, trying not to be too obvious as I stared at their name tags putting the screenname/face and their writing together in my head. Lots of them knew me already from what I'd written. They were so welcoming.

The panels continued, the boats outside the yacht club were still sunk in the water, and there was a threat of another hurricane. There was a beautiful young woman who seemed to have something to do with the organization of all this. She looked very serious, her dark hair to her shoulders, her eyes on her laptop, her fingers flying on the keyboard and she was wearing a really cool skirt. She certainly wasn't a stodgy geeky woman, that was for sure.

I had brought a flask of rum, not realizing there was a fully stocked bar for afterwards. Once the conference officially ended, she looked tired, frazzled. She came over to where all the soft drinks were, and started pouring a coke. I asked her if she would like to add some rum to it. "Oh thank GOD," she said, and we mixed a couple of whoppers. She said her name was Maitri, but I'd figured that out already.

Now some years have passed. These two people, the first two I met, have become friends, colleagues, partners in crime. We've grieved together, partied together, annoyed each other, and sent stupid jokes to each other. We've kept track of each other during subsequent evacuations. I've learned so much from them both.

And I cannot forget their respective spouses. The wonderful patient D, always driving often intoxicated women around looking jaunty in his hat and dimples, laughing at us but never judging. Maitri chose well. Alexis, a beautiful sensitive woman, who along with Maitri, encouraged me to get over my shyness and read OUT LOUD to actual PEOPLE. Loki also chose well.

The loss of the four of them to the Yankees, although for good reasons, will leave a void in our little group. Maitri's counting of days and Loki's tirades will evolve. Their generousity with their time, their cheerleading, will be a loss to the motley group that is the New Orleans blogger community.

But for me, the loss will be greatly and deeply personal. These four people have become friends, took me out of the vacuum. I will miss hearing their laughter for a block before I open the door to the bar, making me smile because I'll find them inside ready to tell me my lipstick needs to be redder or "I totally NEED that Star Wars Christmas Special!"

Maitri and D will leave first, followed by Loki and Alexis. I wish them the best, will await their visits home, and be forever grateful to them for being the first two people to show me that I wasn't alone in my anger, my grief and my frustration during that time. Their gift of themselves was one of the best gifts I've ever received.

Now I'm putting on my tshirt that reads, "Be a New Orleanian Wherever You Are" knowing that they will be, I'm throwing the kleenex away (I'll just get a new one if I need it, and I probably will), and I will await the photostreams that will no doubt show all four of them in bizarre get-ups being stared at by Hoosiers who've never experienced anything like these four people.

I hope those Yankees appreciate what they're gaining.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Absinthe and Cran Please

In response to a fellow blogger, I am posting this here. It started as an email but the comebacks were just too good not to post. Below is the original followed by the comebacks:

Last night my husband and I were going to go to a play. The play was postponed until April 1. So having a night free, actually with each other, we decided to go to Vaughan's. First we went to the Joint for some faboo BBQ, then on to Vaughan's. It was decidedly empty but a couple hours passed and the "let's get seriously dressed up in spike heels" young crowd started to arrive passing in and among the rest of us schlumps. A group of three young women, either tourists or college students, we're still arguing over that, push their way up to the bar with one standing right next to me. She's getting drink orders from her two friends and hollering them to the bartender. "I need an Abita, a screwdriver and an absinthe and cran please."

I spun around like Linda Blair's head, watching as the bartender, clearly as astonished as me repeated it incredulously. Yup, that was the drink order. I kept thinking of Folse. We would have had to get the paddles out if he'd heard it. I thought they were gonna need them for me. I'm still laughing at that combination.

BTW, while we were there (Kermit never showed but of course his band rocked, and we heard one girl tell her friend the name of the band was the BBQ Sauce), Steve Zahn stood next to me at the bar. He was having a great time, ordered some Buds, I asked if he had tried any of our locally beloved beer. His response was, laughing, "I like shitty beer!" We asked if he was working, he said yes on Treme. We got to talking about life here after K and he said there was a lot about that in the show. We told him we were excited to see how Treme turned out and told him we thought the writing would probably be top notch. His response was, "It's the best script I've ever seen." He really gave it high marks and said he is loving working on it. We were delighted to hear it and it was clear that he's loving being here and loving the show. Bodes well I think! The way he spoke about it was interesting. I think he is not only enjoying his work as an actor, but from what he was saying, I got a feeling that he felt he was doing something important, worthwhile, something that mattered to him. It was great to hear that. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Response #1: "Absinthe and cran? She must be shot on the Esplanade neutral ground."
Response #2: "I think the stocks will be sufficient."
Response #3 (by a local writer for whom we all have high regard, known as KA by those on our list): "Oh, great. And the Hipsterpolitan was born."
Response #4: "Girls like that give girls a bad name."

And as we're big on giving credit where credit is due, Response #5: "Perfect, let the record show it was KA who named it! Hipsterpolitan, brilliant!"

Perfect name for a perfectly horrible combination. I've gotten private emails about this, asking how old the girl was (probably about 22), was she a tourist (as I said, we're still arguing about that, although that wouldn't make it any better), and from a long time friend and devoted absinthe drinker, WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP HER?

Well, because she had to drink it and I thought that was punishment enough.

EDIT: As of last night a new name has emerged for this abomination, the Crabsinthe. Just keeping you up to date!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

LePetit Theatre-Social Media and Activism

We've all heard talk about the social media revolution. We've probably all noodled around looking for our favorite video to post, or found an article that outraged us and quickly hit the Facebook post button on the bottom. We've wasted time yacking about nothing, posted weird photos, commented on someone's status. No doubt about it, some social media can be a time suck.

I saw something in the last two days, however, that really showed me how fast social media can make a real difference.

Each morning I check Twitter, just to see what my miscreant friends are up to. Day before yesterday, The Gambit tweet was about a breaking story regarding the firing of the Le Petit staff. I quickly checked the Times Picayune, nothing there.

Within in hour on Facebook, a note was written on a friend's page. He outlined what had happened, to whom, why and who would be taking it over. He also layed out some of the ideas that had been floated for the use of the LePetit Theatre building over the years: everything from a new shop to a parking lot. The comments were rolling on that note. People remembering working at the theatre, getting their start there. Others noting the theatre's remarkable historical value.

The original note writer monitored the comments and continued the lively conversation, explaining that the Solomon Group, who has taken over the running of the theatre, isn't the bad guy. In fact they're doing it pro bono (he had put in parentheses "that means FREE"). The conversation continued through the night Tuesday night and into yesterday with many of us offering to volunteer in order to keep the theatre open.

By yesterday afternoon, this group, Volunteers for LePetit Theatre, had been formed by the Solomon Group. As of this morning there were 104 members.

Remember, all this happened in less than 48 hours.

While I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the finances or all the reasons the incumbent employees were let go, I was nevertheless amazed at the speed with which social media helped get the word out that a local and national treasure could be in real trouble. That speed, that rallying of the troops to save the theatre, was amazing to watch in real time.

For anyone who thinks saving the theatre is frivolous when there are so many really huge problems in this city, I would just point out that they too can rally troops quickly and efficiently the same way. How powerful is that?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Slumdog Reality

I've never been lucky enough to visit India. I haven't seen the movie either.

This has been bugging me for days. First I read this article at CNN. It bothered me a lot. Then I saw this picture:

A couple of days passed, and I saw this picture of Azharuddin Ismail the Thursday after the Oscars:

It was accompanied by this article. about his father having just hit him for refusing to talk to reporters. (The same article was published in several other places, both online and in print.) To his father's credit, he apologized. I mean he's not used to this kind of scrutiny either. But the whole thing upset me a lot. He's just a kid. He'd been under a lot of pressure. I was furious at his father for hitting him. I was furious with the reporters for hounding him. He's a little boy, not much older than my grandson. He was tired, he was overwhelmed. It pissed me off. And the sensationalism of the reporting pissed me off. The incredible judgmentalist tone of the piece written, no doubt by someone sitting comfy in a chair in a warm house. Someone not in that reality.

I could only compare his reality with mine, as it's the one I know. It still bothered me. I knew the producers had made sure that these kids' education would be covered and that they were trying to do right by them. Views on parenting might be different there than mine are.

Then I started thinking about all the OTHER kids in those slums and found a reasoned comment on the CNN article. Donations can be sent to to help all the other little ones who were not at the Oscars, who were not in the movie, who are used to living under plastic sheeting.

All that was followed by how many kids a block, four blocks, 20 blocks from my house are in the same situation: living in poverty, getting the back of a hand, maybe going hungry.

The whole thing broke my heart. I can't get Azaruddin's little tear streaked face out of my head. I'm going to keep him there to remind me of all the others in Thailand, in Africa, in India, and yes even here in America, who are hungry and overwhelmed.

It's not just an Indian problem. I compare these impoverished kids reality with an AIG executive's reality and it pisses me off.

Sometimes the whole world seems cockeyed.