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.


Sophmom said...

Well, you've got me blubbering like a baby. It's hard to describe how important becoming part of this community has been for me, coming at a time in my life when I was starting over in many ways. Maitri & Loki were among the first NOLA bloggers that I met as well, and I remember that first RT with great joy, driving in from Atlanta straight to the venue for the Friday night mixer, stopping at a Shell Station in the otherwise desolate Lakeview to change, spending the first of many nights at Dangerblond's. I will say here what I said on the listserv: New Orleans is about to be much quieter, and that is not a good thing.

Leigh C. said...

I'm so gonna miss those crazy folks. I hope the people up north do appreciate these couples coming their way. They'd better, or else they'll have to contend with me, dammit.

Maitri said...

I don't have words for this post, my lovely lady. You captured precisely how we met and how we grew to be friends. It makes our relationship and the fact that I'm leaving so much more real.

It's not just the north, where 3 out of the 4 of us moving back up there are from. If D and I were moving to Wisconsin, it would be a whole different ballgame because we're from there, lived there, etc. We're moving to Ohio, however, where I've visited numerous times since the wee age of 6 but never lived there. And I'm not sure how small towns take Madison-liberal, NOLA-colorful people. I will not change myself to please them, though, you can bet your ass on that. So, yeah, they had better appreciate what you guys have helped us become and are sending them.

And I have to give the folks up in Ohio (Buckeyes, not Hoosiers, who are from Indiana) a lot more credit. They're already clamoring for my costumes and D's jambalaya.

I'll be a keystroke and a phonecall away, but it will not be the same. Oh God ... now I'm going to cry.

kalen said...

Beautifully written, Moxie Woman.

One thing I learned upon returning after living elsewhere... Pre-departure friendships pick up right where they left off. It's a laignaippe worth remembering, and something that has only been as real and true as in NOLA.

LisaPal said...

Beautiful post. I expect these four to be back down here for all the key events and in the meantime, I'll pretend they're still around, just very busy.


Jo said...

We yankees welcome the breath of fresh air! Thanks for sharing your friends :)

George "Loki" Williams said...

Damn it Slate, you made me tear up. I'm only just getting unburied from my move enough to really start keeping track again.

Love you darlin, we'll see you at Carnival!

termite said...

threw new orleans metroblog i grew to know most of you and appreciate your words and colorful stories.

i wish all of you much luck in your new world and of course, love. :)

hurry home.


Kelly said...

Loki is a true believer in the power of blogging, the power of music, the power of the internet, the power of radio and most importantly, the power of people.

A beautiful post.