Mar 5, 2004

Canadians and cockroaches

So, we have a new student teacher. She's very, very all Canadians are. I told my friend Mark (a Canadian himself) how very sweet she was.
"Well, we do have a reputation for a certain dull, sterile niceness... quite unlike you friendly, gregarious Americans,"
he told me, completely nonplussed.

She's a breath of fresh air.
(I'm not sure anybody needs that much fresh air in the morning, however)

Today Mark asks me, "I'm sure this Toronto girl is thrilled to be in your exotic city, right?"

Somehow I doubt it.
She's terrified of the roaches. One day last week she squealed in horror, rushing out of one of the bathrooms. I thought she'd seen a corpse in there. "Oh my gosh, there's a dead cockroach in the bathroom!" She screamed, in the cutest Canadian accent. (By the way, she has never been back to that bathroom since.
Never. )

Later, at lunch she was horrified to near shaking by my coworker Robin's descriptions of nutria. We have lunch with her every day, but she never ever eats the food....she eats two slices of whole grain bread, water and a pickle for lunch. (can you imagine?)

All in all, she seems intrigued.... but disgusted (in a nice, Canadian kind of way, of course) by us all. I can only imagine what my girls must think of her....she's so very different from them (though she is a black female too). She might as well be from a different planet. Hell, *I'm* more "ghetto" (as...uh....parlance puts it) than she is.

Still, I think the culture clash has to be good in a way for both of them (us?), right?

Feb 18, 2004

unraveling sense

I'm beginning to discover that sometimes with a lot of time....things start slowly to make a kind of sense. It's not easy, but sense starts to unravel slowly, and slowly the threads that were so tightly wound, relax. That's been happening for me occasionally, with things that I didn't understand. About 7 years ago, my best friend at the time....Desiree, with whom I was very close (I was the beneficiary of her life insurance, ferchristsakes) totally Xed me out of her life. It was so disconcerting and disorienting that I can't even begin to describe how.
It made no sense. Mutual friends offered up suggestions, and I could hear the truth in them, but still wanted to know why?? but never got an answer. Honestly, I don't think I'd ever been so hurt in my life....primarily because it was so unexpected and cold. It wasn't like we'd even had a "fight" or anything.

Desiree was in so many ways a godsend for me. She opened me up to so much.
I met her at my mentor, Mary's, house. It was one of Mary's legendary parties. It was hot that night and I had gone with a girl from college. She'd thought I'd asked her out on a date, I later found out (when I had come to pick her up, she'd introduced me very awkwardly to her father) It was a strange (magical?) night all around.

That was the night that Desiree met Will, Mary's son. The two of them were "fated" to be together, she insisted. (They are not together now, needless to say...). Their story is a convoluted one to be sure. She'd had dreams all her life, real dreams of meeting him, and so had he.
They were fated to be together. He was her soul mate. It was the night she also met me.

(What was I, I wonder?)

I remember that night, a slender, very pretty dark haired girl, looking like a cross between a very young
Sonia Braga and Lisa Bonet coming up to me from the crowd. Her voice and mannerisms were much like Lisa Bonet's in fact.
She came up to me and said, "I've read your poetry. It's very good." And then she quoted one of my poems.
I was flattered and surprised, but didn't take much note of it.We talked very briefly that night.
She spent most of that night getting to know the man she had known "before birth."

Later that week, I got an email from some German person. At the time, I barely knew how to operate the email system at school. We had been forced to use email by the Graduate Advisor, and I was still at that time, technophobic. The German person turned out to be Desiree, using her then roommate Gerlinde's (who was German and a source of *many* stories) email address at Tulane. Mary had given her my email address.
We corresponded every day, several times a day. What followed was a intense friendship, one that blurred the lines all too often, I can see in retrospect.

But back to the End:
It was just a few days after her 25th birthday party, she called me up, whining about wanting chocolate and being on her period (something she did more than once a month by the way). I, co-dependant that I am, baked her (another) chocolate cake and
brought it over. We did our usual thing...played with the dogs, (my god dogs, Dalva, Rabbit, and Pixie)
lied on her bed, draped in an old souvenir handkerchief from Goa, under an unframed print of Fuseli's "Nightmare", ceiling poorly decorated with glow in the dark stars....draped in left over sheets that I had stolen from my mother to make a canopy.
We listened to Peter Gabriel, Fred Astaire and Bjork....we talked once more about her pet subjects,
about Yoko and John, how sexually frustrated she was, how sexually frustrated I was, how tempted she was to have sex with either:
1. Ross, her hyper intelligent, very cool, aggressively asshole ex boyfriend.
3.Armand, her very previous exboyfriend who was determined to get her back, but in whom she was not interested in.
3. Paul, Ross's friend, who was a good Catholic school boy, very secure, looked and acted more than a bit like me, had a frigid bitch of a girlfriend.... and a yacht.
It was all very typical.
She and I smoked in her overgrown uptown back yard at dusk, swatting away mosquitoes....where she'd once filmed me in with a laboriously procured 8 millimeter camera for her student film....smoking "like Cole Porter" she laughed.
It was not much different that any number of such nights.
And then one day shortly after, it was all over.
She didn't return my phone call. She ignored my letter asking "why"? No explanation. It was just over.

Anyway....let's just say that for a good 7 years I've been carrying around a lot of baggage due to it...
and a lot of fear of getting close to others again due to it too.

All the while, I had stayed in touch with a friend I'd met through Desiree,( her "all but adopted" mother) Lisa. (yes, I know, all these Lisas must be confusing) Desiree had nothing to do with her family when I met her, and had taken Lisa (who was about 20 years older) as a mother figure. They were very close. Anyway, I liked Lisa a lot...and she liked me. So even after my relationship with Desiree ended, I still periodically corresponded with Lisa....mainly at Christmas and birthdays. I always made a point never to mention the prickly subject of Desiree in my notes at all. I've done this for 7 or 8 years now.

About a year ago, I noticed a wedding was Desiree's. I noticed that Lisa was listed as matron of honor. Anyway, to cut a long story short, this summer, Lisa sent me a card near my birthday with a few lines about her dogs and her husband and her new house (which is near me actually) and p.s. ed at the end is a note saying: "by the way, Desiree and I don't talk anymore." I'm not sure why, but it helped put my mind at rest for some reason. You'd think I'd have seen the clues before, but it wasn't until then that it all made sense and didn't just seem like a theory...that this is a pattern of Desiree's. Of course I'd seen her x people out while I knew her....(her parents had been xed out before I even knew her, her sister, Mary, eventually William, eventually even Ross, I think)
But for whatever reason it made more sense when I got that card.'s taken nearly 8 years now...but I think I've finally gotten over it.

Meeting an old friend I've never "met"

Last night my friend Lisa who lives in Colorado and her friend Fawn came into town.... out of the blue.

A few days ago, she startled me with this email:
Hi Jason....
:) How are you doing? I have a surprise! I am coming with my friend Fawn (whom you've met, remember? To New Orleans next week! We will only be in town a short while. My brother bought a pickup truck on Ebay, and it's located in Gulfport, Miss. I offered to go and get it and drive it home to Colorado! So Fawn and I are going to play a tamer version of Thelma and Louise and make a roadtrip of it. What an adventure.... Anyway I would love to get to meet you in peson even if it is just for a meal or drink or whatever. We will be arriving in New Orleans by air about 10:15 pm on Wednesday the 18th, and then going on to Gulfport the next day. I realize that falls right in the middle of your work week. I wish we could stay in the area a while but we have to put 1600 miles behind us in four days, so we can't stay long.
Is it possible to get together?
Can't wait to hear back from you-

Lisa and I have been friends for, we counted it up....6 years. It's hard to believe. We've been corresponding online for 6 years, and had never I *had* to meet her...even if I was dead. It was strange, even though we only got to spent literally a few hours together, it felt like we had known each other forever. I guess in a sense we have, but I've often been amazed at how natural it is to meet after such a long correspondance.

They got in at about 11 pm. I picked them up at their hotel at about midnight, then we went to eat (at 3 was not easy to find a place). I decided to take them down the long way to uptown, so they could at least see part of the city that was more attractive than the interstate. We ended up at the Trolley Stop Cafe, certainly not the best place in the city to eat, but one which I knew for sure was open at all hours.

Needless to say, there had been a shooting at a parade that night. The police were everywhere, but we didn't know that until well after the fact. It just seemed like the city was especially ....ummm "safe."
We had a nice meal.
They got to eat vaguely Southern food at 3 am, and, more importantly, I got the chance to finally meet one of my best internet friends. We talked about our time at the site we'd first met, a prayer circle of sorts, about the city, about Colorado and her family, about our trapper forebearers, about the school system, about men, life and more. They were only going to be in N.O. for a few hours that night, so that was my only chance to see them. They were leaving for Mississippi the next morning to fetch the truck, and then drive all the way back to CO, like "Thelma and Louise" as Lisa put it. I had to go to school the next day too, 5 am I was back you can imagine how beat I was.

Anyway, I'd actually met Lisa's friend Fawn before, but never Lisa. Some of Lisa's friends had come down from CO last year I think? Or the year before that? I can't recall...anyway, I met them then. It was an awful trip for them, I know. It was New Years holiday, and the city was crammed with Sugar Bowl tourists. The weather was bitterly cold, colder even than Colorado, and rainy and miserable. I felt personally responsible for the horrible state of the city. I know they hated it. Thankfully, Lisa's own trip was much much nicer, (I hope) if shorter. It's the middle of Carnival of course, but the weather is beautiful now. I didn't want another group of guests getting a bad first impression of "home," you know. As much as I sometimes hate this place, it's still home, after all.

Jan 24, 2004

Board Games and Cold Cuts

I went for a night of board games and cold cuts in Kenner....and ended up in 5 the house of a suicidal priest without underwear.

My friend Lisa (yes, another Lisa) is a former colleague of mine. Irregularly she hosts a game night for some of her friends....mostly me, Velinda, (a former colleague of mine), Robin (a current colleague of mine)
and whoever is Lisa's current boyfriend (at the time now it's Steve... sometimes Helmut...but sometimes it's both...long story). This night is was Velinda, whom I had not seen in months, Steve, Helmut, Lisa, and Lisa's parents, who were in town for the month...yes, I did say for the month. Her parents come down from Pennsylvania and move in, to launch a month long assault on her self-esteem and to reorganize her cabinets.

Lisa's parents are nice Northern people....her step mother especially.
You know the type. They like crafting a lot.
I think her mother even blushed at the word "condiments."

It was all very polite and decorous. Lisa had put out the best dishes. She and her stepmom had made cream of mushroom soup, and the cold cuts were splayed out on the table like a centerpiece. We talked of dogs and crafting and cold cuts. It was all very nice. Lisa loves board games. I think they remind her of her mother,
so when she eagerly asked us, after dinner, "does anyone want to play games?" I said, "ok, I don't mind if we play."
Velinda, however, gave me a dirty look. She did not want to play games.

But we played. We played until Lisa's parents went to bed (early of course). After they had gone to bed, suddenly Velinda came alive, as though Daddy and Mommy had gone to bed, and we could now jump on the beds to our hearts content.

"I want to see a movie!" she announced. "I want to see "Monster" It's got lesbians in it."

It was late, but she insisted. So we all dutifully filed into Lisa's bedroom
and looked up the times for the theater online. Surely enough, there was a very late (12:40 am ) showing.
No one really wanted to go, except Velinda, but with enough cajoling, we found ourselves in Lisa's van, barreling down the interstate, in a mad dash to get there on time. We only barely made it.
We watched the movie. It was searing and depressing....just exactly, it seems, the type of movie Lisa hates. As for me, well, it made the 5th depressing movie in a row I'd seen.

Mostly we were all just exhausted. When the movie let out, it was 3 am.
Stumbling back to the van, exhausted by lack of sleep and the harrowing sight of Aileen Wuoronos's descent into hell still fresh in our minds, Steve pulled out his cell phone. He had gotten multiple calls while in the theater it seems. He had not noticed them there.

There was a lot of frantic calling. We were only half awake and half paying attention. We just wanted to go to bed.

Eventually we were told what the situation was. It seems that Lisa had forgotten her cell phone in the van, and all the while we were in the movie someone had been
calling Steve, trying desperately to get in touch with her.
It was Lisa's parents.

They had been awakened by a friend of Lisa's who had called for her at her home while we were away. It sounded important, they said. She needed to call him now, they said. It was past 3 am.
So she called him. Listening to her talk to him on the phone, it was not hard to figure out what had happened.

He had taken 20 sleeping pills because his 16 year old black (gay) lover had left him. (again?) He, by the way, is a 50 something year old priest.

The next thing I know, we are back on the interstate driving frantically to Metairie. Lisa's driving, in the best of circumstances can be, how do I say it politely... "exciting."

Poor Lisa, who had just seen a movie she hated, did not want to see, who only wanted to be in bed now, was now forced into counselling a suicidal friend over the phone, while weaving frantically, through traffic, with three others in tow.

She sounded angry. Lisa is famously *always* happy.
But not now.

Eventually we found ourselves...all 4 of a suburban house in Metairie. We all tiptoed in, awkwardly.
Steve had never met her friend, never seen him. I've only met him has Velinda (the time he called her "highly inappropriate" at our garage sale...when Velinda climbed into the car of a migrant worker/customer and solicited a phone number for a date).

And now we're at his suicide.

Velinda, Steve and I stayed in what looks like the den, a tackily decorated room, full of pasteboard Walmart furniture and religious knick nacks. On a glass table I could see a sheet of looseleaf.
It's the suicide note. (looseleaf? How much tackier still? Sorry)

I didn't know what to do, none of us did, so I played awkwardly with the cat, who was confused but friendly. It seems we're in the underaged lover's aunt's house...but I'm not sure.

In the front room...very overly decorated, with loud velveteen furniture, Lisa is talking to her friend, who insists that she not call 911. She does anyway.

"But I don't have any underwear on!" I keep hearing him say hazily.

Lisa is still pissed. All she wanted to do was go to bed, and now here she is. Here *we* all are.

Suddenly the room is flooded with red flashing lights and siren noise. There are cops, paramedics suddenly in the front room. I peek out the back window, the cat between my legs, noticing what looks like homemade rat poison in milk jugs lined up along the pantry shelves. There's an ambulance outside and multiple cop cars. I can hear her friend slurringly arguing with the cops about leaving. He insists that he doesn't want to go to the hospital. He keeps repeating that he has no underwear on. They threaten him with force, and he goes. We tentatively get back into the van.
From the back window I can see them loading Lisa and her friend up in the ambulance.
Oh, and an overweight neighbor in the middle of the street with a cell phone, blocking traffic.
They don't seem to be in any hurry.
Steve takes us back to Lisa's house for us to get our cars and go home. It's 5 or so in the morning.

Just a few minutes ago, while I'm typing this in fact, Lisa calls me,
"Hi Hon," she says. "Just wanted to see if you'd like to come over for games Saturday night."
"Sure," I say