Saying Goodbye to the Big Easy

Hello-o-o-o-o-? HELLO-O-O-O-O-? Anyone here-ere-ere-ere? (cough, cough, cough, hack, sneeze) Jeeze doesn’t anyone ever dust around here? (runs into massive cobweb, flails arms madly) Ppppfffff shhhh gaaaaaw… Aaarrrrgh!

Oh, hey hi! Thought I’d poke my head back in here, see if anyone is still around waiting to read my words.

I know. I’ve let the place go. Nevertheless, consider this an invite to come on back and hang out again from time to time.

Yeah. So. It’s been a year. A hell’uva year. Full of so much newness, so much sensory input, so much humidity. So many big-ass cockroaches.

I know I promised I would share with ya’ll about our adventures in the Big Easy. And I meant to, I did. And do. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that I wait to do so until we came back to California.

Hold… But I thought you moved to New Orleans! Big plans! Big dreams in the Big Easy and all that…

Yeah, yeah. We did, and now we’re back. And don’t for a moment think that was any easy decision neither, let me tell you. Leaving behind my kids and new precious grandbaby girl with whom I’m hopelessly in love, was akin to ripping open my chest, pinching off little pieces of my heart, and dropping them along the highway across the States like a trail of breadcrumbs. Gonna take awhile for that sting to subside.

Meanwhile, back to the writing. So many thoughts, so many stories. Some I’ve actually already written, just couldn’t get my head around posting. Now culling through finding the nuggets to share.

Please to enjoy as we begin at the end:

Saying Goodbye to The Big Easy

When we were considering a move to New Orleans my daughter said to me, “If you embrace New Orleans, New Orleans will embrace you.” We’ve always been up for a challenge, so we packed up our world and struck out on our adventure.

Ten months later, I let her know we wouldn’t be staying.

We stand in the sun on the deck of the Algiers Point Ferry heading back to the West Bank and Old Algiers. The mighty Mississippi churns below us, brown like coffee made too weak and shy of a full splash of cream. It’s only the start of May, so the day is mild with just the faintest hint of the hell to come. The cool river breeze blows back her hair; she looks like a movie star. Her skin is flawless, a softly gleaming example of why rose petals have become a beloved cliché. We’ve spent a lovely afternoon together, just the two of us: lunch in the French Quarter, a walk through the aquarium, chatting, holding hands. Gumbo. Sweet tea. Tears: lots of those.

We look over the rail at cloudy water rolling by. I say, “I’ve always liked to think of myself as an adventurer.”

“Adventurers are always trying to get home, mom,” she says. Her smile is sweet, her eyes kind. “Or at least, they’ve got a Shire to go back to.”

I don’t say, “But you’re my Shire.” That would be too weird and melodramatic. Possibly even bad writing. But I want to. I want to say this.

This move has been one of the hardest and sweetest exploits on record for us.

Our year in a bullet list:

  • Mike decides it’s time to retire from teaching.
  • So, what to do now?
  • Hey, we should move to New Orleans (Hollywood South)! Pluses: our kids are there, film and TV industry is there. Why not? Once an actor, always an actor, right?
  • The anticipation of the adventure: Sweet.
  • News flash: first grandbaby on the way! WHAAAAT? Bonus! Makes this move even sweeter.
  • Pack up thirty-plus years of possessions and drag them across the kingdom: Hard, but, adventure (!)
  • We slam into the lung-deflating heat of the Louisiana summer: A phenomenon that defies words.
  • Unload our life into four 5×10’ storage units in 98 degrees and 89% humidity: So Hot. So wet.
  • Sweating more than I’ve ever sweated in my (then) fifty-one years of life. Combined. Just: Wow.
  • The welcoming party at our tiny temporary rental apartment: four cockroaches the size of VW’s. Ummmmm…
  • Kathy curls into fetal position, rocks and hums on the greasy sofa of our ‘artsy’ uptown sublet.
  • Don’t know if I can do this…
  • But, grandbaby!
  • I’ll try.
  • Five days after we arrive, the Governor of Louisiana signs into law, tax legislation that threatens to drive the entire film and TV industry out of the state: Really? How incredibly insightful of him.
  • I survive two months in the roach motel.
  • We find a house in an expensive, strangely white, republican, catholic neighborhood: Hey, it’s quiet and safe, that’s a plus. Hey let’s sign a one-year lease. And, it’s strangely quiet. And did I say quiet? Hey, does anyone live here? Hello? Oh, they’re all over 80 and distrust Californians: Oh okay, I get it.
  • Baby bump on my baby: What?
  • Baby shower.
  • GRANDBABY BORN!
  • BAM! T-boned in an intersection. Kathy’s neck explodes in pain. Mike slams his head into the window. Ambulance. Hospital. Car totaled. Long recovery road stretches before us: What’s happening here?
  • News update: 99% of the film & TV industry in Louisiana does in fact pack up and move to Atlanta, drying up nearly all possibility of pursuing acting careers here: Well, shit. Thanks a lot Gov’na; gotta love those bargain basement leadership skills.
  • Daily neck and back pain. Weekly therapy. Insurance wrestling: This is sucking.
  • Responses to regular day job queries for Mike: Zilch.
  • But there’s rent due and stuff. Retirement and freelancing income only goes so far: This is getting a little scary.
  • The sense of adventure is waning. Mike says, don’t know if I’m up for staying here.
  • But, grandbaby!
  • But, no money! And traffic. And crime. And hot…and…
  • Long, hard wrestling match: Should we stay or should we go, nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah-nah.
  • The verdict: Go.
  • Back.
  • Home.
  • It’s like ripping out a piece of my spleen to think of leaving my kids and grandbaby behind, but the pristine mountains of California are calling.

 

Riverboat Natchez

My girl and I watch the muddy Mississippi slip by us as we make our way across, leaving the Quarter in our wake. No more words, just the faint music of the calliope skipping across the rippling water. The riverboat Natchez paddles by us on the opposite side. Tourists are aboard eating a lazy lunch of etouffee and cheesy grits, letting les bons temps rouler. My heart is heavy with the coming goodbyes.

Earlier this year, my sweet girl posted on Facebook a meme from John Goodman that said, “There’s an incomplete part of our chromosomes that gets repaired or found when we hit New Orleans. Some of us just belong here.” I was overcome with sadness and I cried. I wanted to belong. I wanted to belong here.

I’ve tried to embrace New Orleans, but alas, I have no strength left in my arms. So often it has felt like we’ve moved to another planet. Like we crash landed on Mos Eisley and are trying so hard to fit in, but we don’t have multiple sets of eyes or any tentacles hanging from our faces. Like we’re walking around inside someone else’s movie.

But I wouldn’t trade this year for anything. It’s been intense and surreal. Full of new tastes, sounds, sensations, experiences. A year with my kids and a brand new life added to my life. A year in one of the most unique and unapologetic cities there is. New Orleans. She goes by many names: The Big Easy, the Crescent City, Naw’lins, Nola. Whatever you call her, I will always carry a piece of her in my heart. Maybe not in my chromosomes, but definitely in my heart.

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On Turning Fifty. Two.

 

“My fifties were my best decade.”

 

Someone made this proud declaration to me somewhere in the middle of my fourth decade. I liked the sound of it, so I adopted it as my mantra too. Well, except that back then I chanted it in the future tense.

“My fifties are going to be my best decade…” (pumps pompoms, does a high jump kick, lands in the splits, sun glinting off teeth)

And so, for the five years preceding fifty I started prepping myself for fifty. Ramping up the yoga, pouring over the manifestos of the You Can Do It gurus, drinking my morning kale and chia smoothies, and slathering on the organic avocado and chamomile skin elixirs.

It was Kathy’s War: I was gonna down-dog, positively affirm, chug-a-lug, and moisturize my way back to forty if it killed me. And still, fifty came. And went.

I’m now officially two years in. How’s it working for me?

I’m really hoping it’s too early yet to tell for sure.

They say it has a lot to do with your mindset. I gotta say though, some days it’s more of a friggin’ mind game I play with myself. And as much as I enjoy playing with myself, this game gets a little sketchy.

Truth be told there are some things we are not happy about, Bob. Not happy.

Like, can anyone else say nostril hair? I mean is it me, or is it just the Costco10x magnifier mirror? (shakes fist at Costco for offering such a deal on this device of torture) I never noticed how long those suckers can get—or that I even had them at all.

What is the deal?

And what is up with this little piece of chicken skin growing underneath my chin? What is this thing called…? (the old pal Depression chimes in, “Wattle.” – Thanks, jerk.) Now when I’m looking down at my phone to read a text, I see it reflected there. Hanging. Wattling. Mocking me. Oh the pain of it.

And when did pooping get to be such a boon? (decrepit Kathy rocks in her rocker, corncob pipe clenched in her teeth, “Nothin’ like a good BM in the morning, I always say…”)

Then there’s the night sweats, the itchiness, the raging, the crying, the bitching, the brain fog, the tummy pooch, the droopy buns, the can’t remember where I left the half-n-half, the voices (“No, really, wear the leggings…with the leg warmers…and tuck in the blouse! Headband too! Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!”), the cravings, the can’t remember… the can’t remember the… the can’t… What?

(shakes fist at the neighbor kids, “Get the hell off my lawn!”)

I’m trying to do this gracefully. I am. But there are days…

So yeah, okay, “My fifties are going to be my best decade… My fifties are going to be my best decade… My fifties are going to be my best decade…yet.”

I must put the yet tag on there because, well, you can’t be too careful with these magical (stupid) incantations. I would hate to cheat myself out of the Sexy Sixties, the Sagacious Seventies, the Ecstatic Eighties and the Nimble Nineties because I misquoted the damn spell for the F@#&ing Fifties!

Recently I ran across a heinous ad on the Internet. This nasty little thing just popped up in my face (during my query ‘What is Hozier?’) asking, “Do you suffer from laugh lines?”

WHAT THE HOLY HELL! Suffer? Really? Since when did laugh lines become the new cellulite?

YES! YES I SUFFER! And I will go on suffering because there is precious little shit left in this world to laugh about (except for maybe redonculous ads like yours) and I want evidence of that gorrammit!

It’s freaking hard enough to contemplate facing the more limiting aspects of aging like: vaginal dust, or the possibility of getting lost in my bathroom, or falling off my slippers and breaking my hip, without feeling that my laugh lines are now unsightly and unacceptable!

Screw it! Bring it on! There’s nothing for it. No miracle ointment, no little blue pill (oh wait), no reverse aging suppository. This thing is going to happen.

So here’s to the fanfuckingtastic fifties! (throws back a shot of Metamucil, wipes mouth on sleeve, slams glass on table, farts involuntarily). So let it be written, so let it be done.

Embrace the Wattle

By the way, both hens and roosters have that gnarly thing hanging down from their necks. Apparently wattles are the chicken’s cooling system; they don’t sweat. So I guess it somehow helps to have this flappy thing hanging here.

But I still sweat. Even with the flap. In the middle of the night. For no freaking reason whatsoever. Except…I’m in my fifties.

 

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Riding the Train They Call the City of New Orleans

“New Orleans? WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?”

Blink, blink.

“Why the heck would you ever wanna move there?”

“It’s so hot.”

“Sticky. Ugh.”

“Bugs. Huge.”

“Dangerous.”

Many friends and family just shook their heads at our news. Then as hubby and I walked away: “I told you they had some loose marbles…the silly infantasizers…some kind of Mid-Life Walter Middy thing…” (I didn’t actually hear them say this, but I used my Spidey Sense and so I know they were.)

Yeah, well, so. It is nuts the things we’ll do to be closer to our kids. It would be so much easier if they were jerks so we could just rend our garments and be done with them. But alas, pure awesomeness are they.

It was hard enough to have the two of them opt to move to Los Angeles after high school. (I suppose performing arts school and acting careers were somewhat inevitable.)

Thirteen hours away was torture; then back in aught-thirteen, our eldest—Em—announced she was moving to New Orleans.

We said:

“New Orleans? Really?”

Blink, blink.

“Why the heck would you ever wanna move there? It’s so hot. Sticky. Ugh. Bugs. Huge. Dangerous.”

Translation: PLEASE! Please don’t go! I can’t just get in the car when I’m Jonesin’ for my kid, and drive for thirteen hours and put my arms around you!

Our boy, Tim, followed a year later.

“New Orleans?” “Reallly? Hot…sticky…”

We called them six months later.

“We’ve decided. Dad is retiring from teaching and we’re moving.”

“Where?”

“We think maybe…well, if you don’t mind…that is, if you don’t think it would be too weird to traipse across the country after our kids…Can we come live with you?”

“YAY! Wait. With?”

“Well, no, of course, not with, of course, that would be just, no of course not with… But close?”

“YAY!”

So they loaded up the truck and they moved to the Big EeeeZZZ! Nawlins that is… sweat that pools, lots of bars…MovinToTheBigEasy

No, wait, wait. Hold on. It’s swimmin’ pools, movie stars… Hey! Got those too!

See, here’s the other part (and this is the reason behind the reason): They make movies here. And TV. In fact, the industry is growing so robustly here, New Orleans is being called Hollywood South these days.

And well, you know, Mikey and I are both actors…

So we figured hey, we’ve been carrying these prickly actor dreams around in our chests for going on…well, our whole damn lives… time to take some action! Time to scratch that itch or die. And we get to scratch while consuming beignets, crawfish, and bourbon!

So in the midst of middle age, we have embarked on this new adventure.

Yep, done lost our marbles we have. But we have the rest of our lives to find those. Remember back HERE I was explaining what the heck I’ve been doing with myself and why my blog has been moldering? Well, as promised, now you know a little more about number three on the list of what I’ve been up to.

So far, moving to Nawlins has been a bit like stepping into a strange, twisty, Technicolor, alternate reality. There is a story around every corner and in every epic pothole.

I’ll be sharing some soon, so y’all come back now, y’hear?

 

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I’m Baaaaaack!

I’ve done it. I’ve gone and let my blog molder and grow all viney and cobwebby. Eleven months. I swore I wasn’t going to let this happen. I wasn’t going to be that person. That kind of wannabe blogger that posts every millennia or so. Well, damn it, I’ve been busy.

Ok fine; so not your everyday kind of busy, like soccer mom busy. Or over-extended executive who sits on three boards and a gaggle of community service committees busy. Or even successful-mid-lifer-who’s-working-their-dream job-made-it-to-the-top-of-their-pay-grade-and-is-up-for-the-big-promotion busy.

It’s been more like in my head kind of busy. Some might call it just sitting and staring busy. And that may be true. Okay it’s true. And maybe sometimes there’s a little rocking…and humming…but I’m a year (and a half) past the shores of fifty and I have a lot of stuff to figure out, so stop judging me!

So I’ve been busy…thinking.

“But what the heck’ve you been DOING?” you may ask (or not, because, really, who the hell cares as long as it hasn’t involved hacking or YOUR bank account).

You see, back in aught-eleven when I started this blog thing I said I was setting out on a journey to find myself. How middle-aged cliché of me. I’ve also taken up yoga and green smoothies and photography and red wine…and blogging. Oh God. I’ve become a cliché.

(From beneath his hood the old saggy man says, “Take your pen. Write that memoir with all of your hormones and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!”)

MemoirAnd so oh yeah, I wrote a book.

And I guess now, it is complete. Not my journey. The memoir.

“What the heck’s this tome about?” you may ask (or not, because, really you’re a smart cookie and have already divined: Hm. Memoir. Probably about her).

And so it is.

You see; about seven years ago, I woke up. From a near-quarter-century deep dive into the Charismatic Christian church.

It’s a simple story arc, really. Young starry-eyed Hollywood-bound heathen finds Jesus; spends the next twenty-two years as a bona fide Bible-totin’, tongues-speakin’, Gospel-preachin’, rafter-swingin’ Born Again; then becomes a heathen again. There may be a little more to it than that; a lot of stories pile up in two and a half decades. Funny stories. And weird. And a little sad.

I started working on the beginnings of it about four years ago, but had to tuck her back away for a while. Waking up kinda threw me for a little loopy loop. (No I do not mean loop de. Or loop the. Or even loopty.) Loopy. Yep. It left me with lotsa stuff bumping about in the ol’ noggin. It took a few years for me to figure out just how deeply buried I had been. After the bends subsided. And the grieving. And the regret. It takes time to sort this kind of thing out.

But I’m fine now, really. There’s no call for an intervention here. I’m just sayin’ it’s been a ride.

Anyway, about three years ago the time finally came when I could breath air again, so I took up my pen and wrote the book.

Now begins the real journey… Here’s some of what’s to come:

  1. Get the sucker published
  2. Write the next thing(s)
  3. Move to New Orleans (needle scratching across vinyl…wh…woa…wuh?!)

Ok, wait. That last one’s done. Moved to New Orleans. I’ll fill you in on that next time.

Meantime, this little bloggy thing here will be the place where I shall keep you in the loopy about the above three items.

Hang on. Ya know something, I just gotta say…

Starting this blog and writing my story taught me some stuff. (Steps up onto soapbox. Changes mind. Hands soapbox back to husband.)

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Wrote the memoir. Taking back my blog. Moved to New Orleans.

Yes, Mike came too.

Stay tuned, more to come.

Oh yeah… I do still break out the camera from time to time. Check out some recent-ish shots:

 

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Unexpected Pleasure

My Leafy FriendYesterday, I sat at my desk working. Some movement outside the window caught my eye. I looked and there was a small gold oak leaf spinning in the air. It didn’t fall; it just spun there, suspended. It danced and twirled. It darted from side to side and twirled some more. It was obviously trying to get my attention.

“Hey! Look at me! Whaddaya think ‘a that?”

I almost ignored it and went back to work. Yeah, leaf. Spinning in the air. Whatever.

But I remembered that this was what I have been asking for…

Curiosity. Wonder. Little joys.

The small sprig continued it’s playful jig, so I got up and watched it. As I moved closer to the window, I could see that it was suspended on a lone strand of spider web. The day was rainy, so there were drops of moisture on the strand and on the happy leaf. Miniscule diamonds shaped like smooth tears.

The intermittent breeze was her partner, pushing her gently this way and that, and she did triple and quadruple pirouettes just to show off. Every so often a ray of sun filtered through the cloudy sky so I could see that the wee dancer was costumed in gold-lamé. I expanded my awareness and everything around became the stunning backdrop for this amazing ballet. The rain brought up the saturation of color in the cedar and spruce needles, the tree bark, the grass. Everything was dripping with jewels.

An elaborate production was going on right under my nose while I was tap-tappity-tapping on my keyboard. I almost missed it; I almost forgot to live.

Thank you little leaf. Thank you for persisting.

Of course, I got out my camera. After a little snap-snappity-snapping, I thanked my friend and I returned to my work. My body felt lighter. My brain felt relaxed. My chest felt warmed, like just a little more of my self had awakened.

Leaf in the LightHappy LeafDark Leaf A Leafy Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for stopping by. Please help me grow my blog. Take a sec and share it with your peeps using one or three or all of the handy doo-hickies below. It’s fun to have visitors. 🙂

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