Monthly Archives: September 2009

Street Art, Banksy and SLS St. Petersburg

Last night, one of my volleyball teammates, K., and I were discussing street artist Banksy‘s visit to New Orleans, where he painted/stenciled art all over the city. If you click on the link above, the one with the “Gray Ghost” painting over the sunflower is kinda near my house, on Clio across the street from The Big Top.  I took a picture of M. (who was the first person to tell me about Banksy) in front of it. If I can get the image off my phone (and M. gives permission), I’ll post it here, alongside the regular image below. If it’s the same image (and I think it is, from the details at the bottom), then the sunflower’s been painted over since then and the image has been covered in plexiglass to protect it.

At least one business owner didn’t know what they had on their building and painted over their Banksy (apparently, in some places, a Banksy can improve your property value, which I dig). But like most street art, there is that element of the ephemeral, of catching it. And some places and people do what they can to embrace and protect street art, so that’s pretty amazing.

K. and I moved on from Banksy to discuss the street art I found while I was in St. Petersburg, Russia two years ago and later, images I found in New Orleans. It’s something of a hobby of mine to photograph whatever I see. Below, some Banksy images, street art from St. Petersburg, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Talking about St. Petersburg made me miss it pretty violently. I have moments of that, where I’ll remember smells and tastes and sights from St. Petersburg in this visceral, compelling rush and for a moment, I can’t breathe for wanting to go back. I went as part of the Summer Literary Seminars in 2007, during the end of White Nights where there’s almost 24 hours of daylight. So I got hundreds of photographs and rarely had to worry about lighting – though consequently, any photo that required a flash came out strange or crappy. I saw so many parallels between St. Petersburg and New Orleans while I was there and so it’s strange to miss one city while I’m in the other. But of course, they are very different too. Though, my “local” grocery in St. Petersburg was called Dixie. 🙂

Then, less than 24 hours after talking to K. about Banksy, street art and St. Petersburg, I opened up an SLS email about the new literary contest. Something was missing. Russia wasn’t offered as one of the programs. So, I followed the link to find out why. I know it’s a difficult city to organize something like the summer seminars in, even in the best of times. The program is now on hiatus till 2011, unfortunately. SLS still has programs in Kenya, Lithuania and Montreal. But, judging by my (oh too short) experiences in St. Petersburg, Russia’s the best. 🙂 Anyways, while on the Russia program page, I caught a link to 10-minute video about the 10 years of SLS in St. Pete. It’s a cool video and it gives you a pretty good idea of the experiences of the program. I saw some familiar faces and places and that made me…what? homesick? what’s the word for sick for a city that’s never been your home but completely transformed you? Just heartsick, I guess. I want to be in the position to go back to Russia in 2011, to spend more time and to see more, in addition to reacquanting myself with the old “neighborhood.”

I tried to tie it all together to see if there are any known Banksy pieces in Russia. Couldn’t find anything. But, I did find two Russian references to Banky’s Kissing Policeman. First, a photograph of two Russian Policemen kissing in a winter Siberian Forest. Second, what looks like a photograph of Russian officers (a male-female couple) kissing on a Russian sidewalk paired with Banky’s piece. May I be the first to suggest that Banksy take a visit to Russia? He can take the Trans-Siberian and really do it right.

Oh, here’s a video I just found of Banksy (?) in Palestine. Check it out. .

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[10.21.09: Here’s the picture of M. with the “Grey Ghost” Banksy I told y’all about. Enjoy.]

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Filed under art, Friends, New Orleans, pop culture

The guest blogger strikes again

There have been allegations that my guest blogger, Nick Fox, and I are one and the same person. I assure you that not only do we write very differently – we look very different as well. Especially when you consider he is a boy and I am a girl. Here is his most recent (low-tech email newsletter) update and following it is a picture of the two of us together, to put these allegations to rest once and for good. 🙂

Greetings from Florida. I feel that opening should have a postcard attached with palm trees and flamingos and a couple frolicking in the surf. So just imagine that, if you would. Big pink and green letters saying, Wish You Were Here, and pelicans in the background.

The background as I type this is my grandparents’ new place . I’m looking out the window right now at Sarasota Bay, where a small speedboat appears to be towing a crane across the water. It’s the strangest damn sight. I’m going to go get a photo of it.

(moments later)

Got my photo. See attached. There’s your postcard. Have a look at the floating crane and just imagine the Tijuana Brass Band a little Bob Barker announcement that YOU have won a trip to FLORIDA!!!

Florida is a good place for weird, and growing up here has had an effect on me. Now, when I’m in New Orleans, I walk through the French Quarter and see two cowboys standing on a corner with miniature horses and shrug and go, “Eh. Whatever.”

But I digress. I have a story about digression…

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: Get to the point or I’ll punch you in the mouth.

I’m in the breakfast nook of my grandparents’ new place. They moved in less than forty-eight hours ago. This is supposed to be a retirement community, but if it is, I’d like to retire now.  The place is stunning. When my grandmother walked in two days ago, her first reaction was, “Oh my God! Oh my GOD!”

That was the dialogue for the next thirty minutes. My grandmother (Jabe) and my grandfather (Zaz), going back and forth like this:

JABE: OH MY GOD! I don’t BELIEVE this!

ZAZ: This is too good for us.

JABE: I don’t believe it! Oh my GOD! (pause) OH MY GOD!

ZAZ: This is for royalty, not for schleppers.

JABE: Oh my GOD!

So. Yeah. It’s a nice place. Which is good, because the transition was intense. My grandparents have spent the last couple decades going back and forth between Dayton, Ohio and Sarasota. They’ve been in the same house in Dayton for fifty-one years. The same place in Sarasota for twenty. And they just gave up both at the same time. I can’t imagine making that kind of a shift at the stage of their lives they are at, and it says something to me about their resilience that they can make the transition. But here they are, and they should be joining me for breakfast shortly.

I’m not sure how to talk about things these days. My friend Logan shot me a missive from Bogota a while ago where he said his life “was so busy being lived that words have a hard time keeping up.”

So now that I have some time and the desire to get back in touch with everyone, I’m sitting down to make the words keep up again. I’ll try to tell this in snapshots. It’s been two months and a lot of upheaval and more to come.

Two months ago, I found myself off my track. The mule-driving job had become extremely difficult for me due to brutal heat and an increased insanity out on the square. I was also running a poetry slam that I didn’t have the energy to keep running. I was worried about money, worried about saving. I wasn’t writing at all. Often tired. But the worst thing was that I was constantly staring at maps.

This is a pattern of mine. I love maps and I love travel. The issue for me is when I start planning trips that I am in no position to take. I’m staring at travel guides for Hawaii and maps of Mexico when I need to be writing, or working, or just living the existence I am actually in. When I’m planning what I’m going to do way down the road and obsessing over it, I take myself out of the present moment. The result is that I don’t enjoy my life because I’m not living it. I’m waiting to live something else, something I’ve made into a fantasy. This is a signal to me that things need to change.

So here’s the change:

I quit my job. I gave up the show. I started writing every morning (more on this in a moment), and I got a new, highly portable job as a copy editor. This is ideal work, not just because I’m pretty good at it and it uses my degree to earn me money (imagine that!), but because I can take it with me anywhere. I can work on the road, or I can work from home. And I don’t have to feel as bad if I glance at a map once in a while.

And what am I copy editing?

Bible study guides.

Yeah. I don’t believe it either.

The even better news in all of this is that I’m working on my book again, writing my second draft. I’ve developed a solid pattern with it. I get up every morning and ride my bike through the Bywater, over the tracks at Press Street, and park at a little coffee shop called Sound Café. I order a pot of Earl Grey tea, sit down and work on my book for three hours. Every day. Punch in and punch out. And I’ve also got a rotating crew of friends who come down and join me to write. Rhe, Jonathan, Zach, Andy, Aaron, Corina, and others will show up at various hours, sit next to me and get to work. The place has become our collective office, and it’s rare I don’t see somebody I know working during my time there.

My days in New Orleans open with this routine. Afterwards, I usually go home and make myself some lunch, then get to work on the manuscript I’m editing, if I have one to edit. I’ll play guitar for a while. I’ll go out in the evening to listen to live music and dance whenever the opportunity comes up. Then I go to bed, get up and do it again.

And that’s it. That’s pretty much my life right now. I talked to my grandparents about this yesterday and said the best thing about my thirties (so far) is that I’ve managed to create a life that is exactly the one I want. I also told them that they were a massive inspiration for that. My grandfather just celebrated his 90th birthday (complete with family reunion and musical entertainment), and my grandmother turns 90 in April. They’ve been married 65 years. I want to feel I’m living as full a life as they have. This year, I’ve felt that.

I’ve got some travel coming up in the next few weeks. I head back to New Orleans on Saturday, then leave a few days later for the west. I’ll be in New Mexico, Arizona and California for two and a half weeks. Albuquerque, Flagstaff, L.A. and the San Francisco Bay. That should wind up the summer, which has been a tricky season. New Orleans can get nasty in the summertime, but the heat and intensity is starting to break up. People are coming home, and more and more I’m hearing people say to each other, “Hey, when did you get back?”

I’ll be back in mid-October. Just in time for my birthday (which will mark two years of these updates), Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos. Right now, I can’t say what I’m more excited about; traveling, or coming home.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. Life is being lived. And like Logan said, the words are having a hard time keeping up. I’ll send word from the road. And hopefully some good pictures too. It’s been four years since my last trip to the southwest, and this will mark my first visit to L.A. to see my sister’s new life. Details to follow.

Be good, and I’ll talk to you all soon.

All the good songs,

Nick

It's not the best picture of either of us, but it does prove we're not the same person.

It's not the best picture of either of us, but it does prove we're not the same person.

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Filed under Friends, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture

Bragging on some friend redux

This is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overdue. No posts so far for all of September! Here’s why – new job, new season of volleyball, taking on more writing for PureSYTYCD, always with the freelance and some Novel meltdowns. Oh and you know, the social life thing. Cue manic laughter.

However, in the midst of all of that, I drove up to Baton Rouge with Jamey because she was asked to read in the EGSA Alumni Reading and I was asked to introduce another of the readers, Mary McMyne (who I’ve written about for 225 and here, as well). Honestly, even if Mary hadn’t asked that I introduce her, I would’ve totally have been there because the lineup was the literary equivalent to something like three of my favorite bands all headlining together. The third reader was the lovely and calm and talented Ronlyn Domingue, whose book The Mercy of Thin Air made quite a splash. So Mary did me a favor and gave me a great excuse to go to an event I would’ve paid really good (and really precious, right now) money for. These ladies are rock stars, though they generally blush when I say that.

And as I knew it would be, it was a fantastic evening. It reminded me, vividly, that I am a writer and what I want from my writing life. I want more evenings with writers like these, ladies I admire and adore. See picture for full definition the terms “writers,” “admire” and “adore”:

Emilie, Nolde Alexious, Mary McMyne, Ronlyn Domingue, Susan Kirby-Smith, Jamey Hatley

Emilie, Nolde Alexious, Mary McMyne, Ronlyn Domingue, Susan Kirby-Smith, Jamey Hatley

Haven’t talked about Ronlyn lately because she’s in the depths and the bowels of Book #2. But she’s going to be posting essays monthly on a site called The Nervous Breakdown. She read a phenomenal essay at the event that will be next month’s contribution. Check out the current essay now, called Fowl Freak-Out: A Vegetarian’s Tale. [9.14.09 I should say, Mary also writes for The Nervous Breakdown. Check out her first (hysterical and gross) piece here. Ronlyn’s newest is a must. ]

And this reminds me. I said that I would tell y’all when the 225 piece I wrote about Rheta and Poor Man’s Provence was available and it’s up now on the magazine’s website, here.

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Filed under bragging on, freelance work, Friends, So You Think You Can Dance, writing updates