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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flowers and a Toast in memory of Katrina

Today I left some flowers on our memorial tree for all the people who lost loved ones two years ago today. I lit a candle and remembered the dayh when Katrina blew through the southeast and drowned New Orleans in its wake Mr. dd and I spent many sleepless nights worrying about our friends and family. More than one week later we were very blessed to learn that my sister saved a woman's life and was living in a shelter. In the meantime my parents had been near hysteria and drove down to the coast to look for her. It was complicated because both of them are handicapped snf my mother lived in Gulfport for maybe 20 years... so she was devastated by what she saw. They convinced the security to let them pass onto Hwy 90. My father said that nothing could compare to the things they witnessed and that he hoped he never had to see such things ever again. He said that television and photography could never convey the impact Katrina had on the region. The smell of death hung in the air accompanied by tons of debris hanging in what was left of the live oaks that shelter this distinctive environment most of the time.

The tree I leave flowers on is a Weeping Pussy Willow. It was planted to remember someone we lost not so long ago. Life goes on but it looks and feels different, forever more. True loss is never found.

The rest of this nation has stumbled past Katrina's horrors in a sedated haze of cable tv and easy credit. Katrina was a wake up call. A lot of people heard it and many of them chose to hit snooze. The difference is the rest of the world is watching us snooze via satellite. Any doubts they may have had about our nation are now confirmed. Are we becoming the nation that care forgot?

New Orleans will persist because it is and always will be the city that care forgot. People have always been attracted to the culture of New Orleans because its natives live for those moments of bliss,vlove and the grandueur and beauty that life can reveal...with a passion that often transcends reason. The sublime and the decadent hand in hand... not something common in most American cities.

When I worked at a Kinko's uptown (once a Hibernia Bank, now a Rue de la Course coffee shop) we used to call NOLA a Back Water Banana Republic. Our staff was full of over educated word processors and paper collators... who were gay, straight, butch, punk, transgenger, rock-a-billy, arty boho and more. I loved playing with the copy machines, making one ten cent copy for blue haired ladies on April 15 and spending the month of May explaining to Garden District Debs that we can't get the engraved effect of a wedding invitation with a xerox machine- regardless of the brand or model.

Even then, I knew. We spent labor day weekend in 1984 or 85 taping up our windows while waiting for a hurricane. We drove through the eye of the storm looking for my Mother who was living in Gulfport. She was staying in a three story brick house on the beach that had survived Camille.

Elena and Gloria blew past New Orleans that year. The Gulf Coast toasted their good fortune and we all moved on. I've always told my friends who expressed interest in New Orleans that if they wanted to go they better go soon since one day it would be America's version of Venice. I wish. Instead it is America's version of an urban landfill... full of people, places and things of the nation that care forgot.

The house my Mother stayed in during many Hurricanes didn't make it through Katrina.
In its place she left a casino barge. I hope no one was in the house when it rolled in with the tide.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Today

pimp myspace

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Here Today Gone Tomorrow

pimp myspace

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

the last week of what we think of as summer

1oo degrees. I am cranky but too busy to let it slow me down... much.

Tonite we will swim in our secret pool under the stars. I hope I'll be tired from working hard and accomplishing many things. I don't maintain one of those whiney, funny academic blogs like the ones linked to the excellent AofEK but that doesn't mean that I don't sweat the week prior to classes springing into hyperactivity.

There are times when I anticipate it with glee and others when I mourn the loss of my time and quietude. I've been spoiled this summer in a different way. Normally when I am on my home turf I am too busy to enjoy it. This summer most of my employment plans fell through so I have had the luxury of gardening, creative projects and a few freelance gigs to keep me busy. I haven't had an extra dime to throw around and had to turn to my dwindling savings a few times but I must confess I loved the pace, the sound of cicadas and watching the colonies of bees and exotic grasshoppers feast on my sunflowers. All are happy in the animal, mineral foodchain here in our little kingdom... it sustains itself pretty well without the hyperkinetic activities of higher education. Have I become disenchanted with university life. Not exactly. Is it my age? Is it this era? This time in the 21st C? Likely a combination of all.

There was a time in 1994 when me and my truck rolled into a cotton field on hwy 61. I was fortunate to survive but not lucky enough to walk away. I suffered an ascatabular fracture of the hip, three rib fractures, a few cracked vertebrae and a bed sore that resulted from six weeks of traction. I had a great deal of time to think after I was taken off the morphine drip. One thing I realized then is that whenever I die I don't want my tombstone to read "She was a Busy Woman." Productive, ok. Creative, Great! Engaged? Fine. Full of busy work and obligations to people who only contact me when they need something? No. I am past that.

Life is different than it was in 1994. There are aspects that I miss and I may experience an occassional regret... but in general this life is saner and more compassionate. The jury is still out on the creative intensity. Part of me is very attracted to chaos.... damn it.

Another thing that has changed since 1994... RIP, Harry from the Camelia Grill, New Orleans, LA.


Monday, August 20, 2007


Mr. dd had his hernia repaired this morning at 6 am. This means Mrs dd was there to hold his hand and ask the surgeon how long we should wait before we resume conjugal rites. He acted like he had never been asked that question before. What is this world coming to?

Of course my mister isn't worried about such concerns at the moment. I walked into the post op between his curtains to find his bare shoulders on view as his gown hung around his white rabbit torso. His thinning blonde hair was everywhere - and the tubes and monitors mimicked its chaos as they disappeared under the blankets and bed. His watery blue eyes were lined in red and slowly blinking with the awareness that he didn't die when he went under. He was a muddled mess since he was up until 3am the night prior with a deadline he promised to meet before his surgery and medicated bliss.

I like knowing he's here where I can look after him. Hospitals terrify me for good reason.

He's in bed now wearing a large flannel nightshirt my grandmother gave me many years ago.
It has tiny red crowns with the word princess in a continuous pattern all over it. Most men would balk before letting me slip such a thing over their head. Mr. dd is putty in my hands as long as he is on his meds. Actually, he's lovable putty most days. I'm happy to know he won't be hurting anymore. Now if he'll just accept the fact that he shouldn't lift anything any heavier than our youngest cat or an armful of art books...


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Now or Never

I attended a service for a friend whose sister passed away yesterday. This is for her.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

DIng Dong the King is Dead

Most of my friends and colleagues have no idea of my personal relationship with Elvis. It is something we don't talk about - like one's personal relationship with God. I was born in 1960 and grew up two hours south of Memphis on hwy 61. Elvis was a presence that could not be denied. Every morning the Memphis DJ Rick Dees would do funny impressions of Elvis giving away Cadillacs to forlorn housewives or forgotten vets... I had a framed picture of Elvis on my bedroom wall. It was torn from the Parade Magazine and featured a cerulean blue background.

During the late 1960's or early 70's the Ellis Theatre would feature a double billing of Elvis movies for the pre-teen matinee crowd. I was there with my girlfriend Meg who was was present every Saturday in order to flirt with the boys. I was there to look at Elvis. Yes, yes, the movies were dumb - but it was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon in Bolivar County.

I just liked the way he looked when we were both SO young. He resembed a Greek God and I didn't even know what those mythic figures looked like in 1972. It is an aesthetic I continue to embrace today though the origins are closer to Rome or Greece, via Paris and NYC; than Memphis.

As time passed poor Elvis became a joke to everyone but the most dedicated fans. When we had 50's day (very big when I was in junior high) the loyal few would come dressed as the young, cool Elvis and his entourage. When I learned of Elvis' death thirty years ago today I was standing on a scaffold which was installed on top of the roof of our high school. I was painting the 1978 class motto on the top of a smoke stack in the hot Mississippi sun. It's amazing what one can take when one is young because I know I didn't drink a lot of water back then. Mostly light beer and diet coke - though not on campus! Drinking age was 18 back in the late 7o's. I remember being amazed when my German cousin told me drinking age was like 14 in her hometown... but, I digress.

I was expecting to be "spelled" by a few of my classmates that afternoon but they failed to show. It seems Ward and Meg had taken off for Memphis to attend Elvis' funeral. They weren't the Graceland types - but they understood Elvis and wanted to show their respect. I remember Ward's interpretation of Elvis - who was blonde - and he died his hair black - and wore levis so tight that they split up the rear when he arrived at school. He had someone paint "I love Elvis" with lipstick on the white underpants showing through the split. He wore a while short sleeved button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He was a big hit. Still, I am surprised he wasn't sent home. Ward was a preacher's son. He was pretty outrageous - even for the 70's - even for the Delta! I think he's a lawyer now. I'd love to see him in action.

As always - I finished the mural, such as it was. I contemplated what Elvis' funeral must have been like as I sat on my front lawn in the late afternoon haze. The cicadas were buzzing and between their cycles one could hear David Bowie's "Spiders from Mars" and Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" blaring from of my bedroom window via eight track tapes.

Elvis' presence and my Delta origins became less prominent as I weathered six years of undergrad and graduate art school. Finally in the late 80's I attended a SECAC conference in Memphis. My incentives? Professional Development... Travel money from my department... AND the final banquet was to held at GRACELAND! I'd never been to Graceland though we'd driven by its gates many, many times during my childhood. Christmas Shopping and most any occassion that took us to Memphis would take us right past those famous musically noted gates...

The banquet wasn't that memorable because there was an open bar and in true Elvis Fashion I indulged in too much vodka. I think. Bloody Marys, maybe? Before my turn on the dance floor with Bloody Mary I was able to tour Graceland with a group of about a dozen art professors. Voila! It was authentically fabulous in every sense of the word. I'll always remember his zebra decor in his lounge... everyone's mouth was hanging open.... I think because it was all so real and so fake and so Elvis. No one knew what to say. Needless to say the next day I woke up in my colleagues room, which we were sharing with art students- with one of the worst hangovers of my life. I have no idea how I made it to the plane or how I kept from spewing all over the people surrounding me on that flight.

I remember seeing a few familiar faces on the plane but I don't think they recognized me because I was literally green. (Still, I didn't drink enough water. I was still young and stupid although, like Elvis, I was old enough to know better.)

Finally, as the years passed I found a mate who finds my Delta origins to be exotic. They charm him when things are right with the world. We were married in 1996 and his wedding present to me was a signed photograph of Elvis french kissing a mystery woman in the Mosque theatre in Richmond, VA. To this day no one knows who the woman is. No, it isn't me!

Mr. dd met the famous Albert Wertheimer while researching this mythic image and asked him to sign the print he purchased for me. Elvis story is one that can be read from so many perspectives. He was mythic, tragic, bigger than life, naive, a force, a waste, mislead, etc. Still, they broke the mold. There is no other. We can enjoy the brilliance he inspires in others with fake Elvis, rockabilly, kitch, etc - as long as we appreciate someone who if nothing else was authentic.

Neither photo is a film still!
Elvis films werevery candy-coated.
These were taken by
Albert Wertheimer
who Elvis allowed to shadow him on his first big tour of his
career. No one has ever been able to identify the woman
in the black dress.
oooh la la!
Mr. dd purchaced the one on
the top as a wedding tribute to
our bliss.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Sad but True

Flipping through the digital divide recently I was struck by the aging cheerfulness of Richard Simmons mug on FOX FRIGGIN NEWS. I had to back track on the clicker to confirm it was the real deal with the same hair and sequine encrusted red wife beater he's been wearing for more years than anyone wants to count. Click here to see him wearing it for a publicity still.

Fox News? If there is a place for Richard Simmons on Fox News I suppose there is place for everyone anywhere. Someone please tell him to do something about his hair and wardrobe. Fitness is a good thing. Disco aerobics were scarey then and they are even scarier to see on the morning show, LIVE in 2007.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

c'est la vie

Presently Untitled
mixed media on panel, 24" x 24"

I didn't sleep well last night so I don't anticipate this will be a very entertaining post. Someone was scheduled to stop by the studio today to look at my new work and I think it spooked me. It's very new stuff and everything happening with it has been between me, Mr. dd and the two cats. There is one other friend who has seen it but he was just visiting from out of town so it was more like a drive by viewing...

I just couldn't doze off and didn't want to take anything for my insomnia since an Ambien hangover so something to avoid! It is possible to experience one of those when one doesn't have the hours between one's bedtime and one's morning routine to full benefit and wake up from one's meds. Ahem. I think there are many irresponsible Ambien users out there who ignore this reality and give this very useful and now generic drug a bad name. It has saved me from exhaustion many times since I am a light sleeper - particularly when I am on the road.

Mr dd and I also watched Guinevere, a film about a young woman who moved in with an artist two or three times her age in order to be mentored in how to live her life without the approval of conventional society. There are times when one needs to sleep more than watch an art film but when one can't seem to sleep anyway - what is the harm? Harmful or not it was an interesting film.

A middle-aged mother asked the middle-aged photographer whose loft she found her daughter in - what he had against women his own age... and then she proceeded to answer her question with what she believed to be a sliver of truth - it is the lack of awe a peer would have for said photographer that a young woman feels toward men with more experience? Mr dd said yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I'm glad he doesn't need his woman to be awed by him. Perhaps our Siamese cat is enough? She worships him. It is nice when scene reveals a kernel of truth when it could have settled for
melodramatic hype. I adore Mr dd but we are both human and in full acceptance of those nitty gritties that permeate our life. C'est la vie...



Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day is Done

Thursday evening as I lay in my bed recovering from a migraine I thought about my friend D. I was expecting a phone call or a visit from him that evening since he was leaving for the Middle East the following day. I've missed him a great deal this summer. There was a time in our life where he was my second set of eyes and mine his as we sweated through long summers in unairconditioned studios. Both of us live very different lives now. We are both married and have bigger circles of family and friends to distract us from that very specific kind of solitude it takes to work alone everyday with the occasional friendly distraction.

He showed up. I was in bed and Mr. dd came to fetch me. He was wound up and in the throws of 11th hour packing, errands and unexpected delays. He took the time to look at my newest work and we talked about his family. He comes from a large Catholic tribe and is married to a lovely writer with two children. He has a sister who lives in CA but is here to visit her mother and family for the last time. His sister is dying of cancer and D was visibly upset because she might not make it back to CA before the cancer takes her last breath. She has fought her disease for the past 10 years and has continued to work in morphine induced state for the past two years in order to keep her health insurance. She's a lovely woman who has made her career crunching numbers for the film industry. The fact that she has spent her last two years focusing on things of such little consequence in order to pay her medical bills breaks all of our hearts.
Such scenarios should be the topic of a another post.

By 11pm Thursday evening I walked D to his car and wished him well on his journey around the world. I wondered how he could leave with his sister in such a delicate state - (I KNOW this man)... and wondered if he would have to turn around and come back.

Today I was on my porch working and up walks dear D with our new neighbor. He brought her into the hood and we are very thrilled to have her here. He couldn't get on the plane yesterday because it has become apparent that his sister is in a state of decline and will not make it back to CA. He is buying time to be here with her. It broke my heart to see him in this state and yet I know it is right that she and he are both here. She is meant to be here with her family and D is supposed to be by her side.

He has struggled with his work being so far from home for close to five years now and the universe has challenged each departure every step of the way. He and his lovely family will be in our hearts this week. They are a second family for me.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Down for the Count

left: a study of a Thomas Eakins
drawing by one of my students.

Most mornings I wake up with a slight headache that goes away after I sit up and do some breathwork. Not yesterday. It was a doozy likely the result of the high pressure system that brought us a high yesterday of over 100 degrees F.... and several glasses of cabernet and merlot consumed the previous evening. I normally don't drink red wine in the summer for this reason but it was a special night, an open bar with a very fine complimentary buffet at a four star steak house. I could have chosen the local mircrobrew, which is very, very good, but I really shouldn't consume wheat. Beer is generally off limits for me although I'll make an exception for Guinness!

My head wouldn't stop throbbing yesterday. I tried a barrage of remedies to eliminate the stuffiness (one sinus passage was swollen) that resulted in the headache. The sum total of my day yesterday: Olba inhalers, saline solution, steam heat on my face (the most effective thing), peppermint oil, breathwork, pain pill, cold shower, head massage, spicey food - etc. The most I could accomplish was researching on line for any new miracles in pain relief from places like the curezone. I am always looking for a new home remedy since the other stuff really doesn't work (aleve, ibuprofen, etc) and it's hard on one's liver.

This morning I am ok and ready to make up for yesterday. It rained last night so at least the high pressure front moved on. There really is no good way to escape the weather. Acceptance is key to surviving it. We hadn't turned on our air conditioners until this past weekend since we knew this brutal heat wave was headed our way. One thing I've learned is that when I work overseas there are no airconditioners and it can get very hot. One learns to work around the heat and accept it as the organizing factor of one's day. In Europe they close the shutters during the hottest part of the day and take a long lunch. Here I've learned to get up early and use the cross ventilation and blinds to keep the heat out... as a result we've adjusted to the heat this year and I hadn't had a single bad headache all summer.

Now that the AC is on it's a different story. I'll continue to refer to my homeopathic prevention kit to keep my headaches at bay. The heat index is supposed to be 111 degrees today. Why do people get sinus infections during the summer? AC. If my life were different I'd spend the entire afternoon at the pool as I did when I was a teenager. I did my chores in the morning and spent the afternoon reading at the pool. Now that I look back there were moments when it appeared to be a pretty cushy life. C'est la vie.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

birds and bees

We have many bees, ants, even a monarch or two in the garden these days. It gives me comfort. The world is a mess. Mr and Ms DD's infrastructure at home could use some retooling but as long as the birds and the bees find a welcoming environment we don't worry so much. Ok, Mr. DD does. I don't. When the wildlife disappears, well... it's time to question our protocals at home. When the animals leave I'll be right behind them. MANY years ago my dad proclaimed, upon my compaints about the backwardness of my homeland: "Daughter, Mississippi is last in everything. Its last in education and per-capita income, reading levels, etc, etc... and when the rest of the world goes to hell we'll be the last to go." It's weird. I am feeling that the rest of the nation has been following Mississippi's lead in regards to backwardsness - the difference is our D.C. leaders have their heads up their ass instead of looking over their shoulders.

I hope Papa DD is right since that's where we'll be headed when the going gets too tough for the birds and the bees and the Canadian Geese that have relocated to our neighborhood park. We keep our cats inside most of the time and if nothing else we'll need to look after their best interest!

My neighbor caught a rat in a trap this morning (maybe because we have cat's that can't roam the 'hood). That is one corner of the animal kingdom I don't wish to welcome into my domain. It was in his cage and it wasn't happy, screaming its displeasure. I was reminded of an article I read recently on the empathic, ticklish and competitive nature of rats. (If only the human versions running D.C. were so humane!)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Daily Ritual

Morning ritual: Read the NYT online as I enjoy the coffee Mr. dd has delivered to me. Water everything in pots. Admire sunflowers or roses or whatever foliage is hearty enough to thrive in this heat. Admire my neighbor's garden which thrives due to myu recommendation they installed soaker hoses and and a timer. Check for green tomatos in my front and pinch seeds off basil in the back. Let the cat out. Review the paintings I worked on last night. Check email. Respond to urgent or fun missives and blogs I follow.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Sunflower County

It is hot. I am sitting in my studio, a little sticky. Just writing. It's nicer outside where I can water the garden and admire the sunflowers... but that's a fifteen minute task. My paintings are inside and waiting to be finished. There are also headlines to ponder and cats to feed.

I've been distracted by the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis. I have friend that teaches at the art school there and I'd love to know she's ok. Readers may also have noticed that I have a great respect for the Mississippi River. It isn't a body of water to be taken in stride or to be considered a place for recreational boating. I've posted my memories of the Mississippi before but most of my tales take place on the other end of da rivah.

A musician friend once spent several months sleeping at the mouth of the Mississippi in NOLA. It was back in the day when one could hear David Bowie break out into spontaneous version of Fame at Pat O'Brien's. Of course he was surrounded by drunks who didn't seem to notice. It probably wasn't his crowd. Sometime before that childhood friend also watched a friend's car roll into the Mississippi River from the huge levee that runs the length of the Delta.

I doubt it was like that scene in Risky Business since my high school buddies were more concerned about the ounce of pot in the glove compartment of their ancient land yacht than they were about explaining the vehicle's loss to any person of authority. He wrote a song about it. I don't remember the lyrics but it was definitely performed to a blues beat.

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