Monday, November 22, 2010

Last Three Months

Just looked at the date of my last post—almost three months ago—I’m getting worse, not better, about posting more frequently. But I moved, again. After living in the same house in New York for more than 20 years, I’ve flitted around like a butterfly since coming here. My new place on Umarán is my fourth place in five years. Although I prefer my old neighborhood, I like my new house much better. It’s not just the big things like a fireplace that creates heat, a second bedroom and a house with levels, but little things too, like a double sink and stove with a broiler. I was obsessed with getting unpacked and did not hit the streets to see my favorite fiesta, San Miguel Arcángle, the one that was blocking passage to the house I’d rented the day I arrived in San Miguel in 2005. I couldn’t see the dancers from my new roof garden, as they processed a block away down Canal, but listened to the drums while I repotted plants.

And I also taught my first writing workshop here in San Miguel, a very different experience from the classes I taught in the States, mostly in academic environments. Like all new classes, where you have to build and refine your lesson plans, this first one was labor intensive. But neither of these things is the real reason I was writing catatonic—it took forever to get the information off my old hard drive and the possibility of having to recreate the works-in-progress stored there from scratch, without any of my notes, immobilized me.

When Mama was about a decade younger than I am right now, I remember asking her what if felt like to be 50. She said that in her mind she hadn’t aged but her body didn’t always cooperate. I experienced that with the move, big time. I wanted to have everything in the house in order before I headed out on November 1st for NY and Buenos Aires but that didn’t happened—I used up all my energy packing up to leave. I still had unpacked boxes in the middle of rooms when I left after a month.

I was excited about returning to Buenos Aires. It hadn’t even been on my list of cities to visit when I went three years ago, but I fell in love—a major cultural center for the price of San Miguel. Once again, I got the opportunity to visit for less than the cost of a plane ticket to New York. Like before, my friend Lita, a retired Delta employee, was offering a buddy pass and another friend had invited us to stay at her place. Lynn, who’d moved to San Miguel about the same time I did, who has bought and renovated houses and apartments both in Seattle, Washington and San Miguel, bought an apartment in the Paris of Latin America and did a gut renovation. She was returning to final touches on the interior before she begins renting it in January and asked Lita and I to come with her to christen her new digs. I said yes, and sold some of my textiles to finance the trip.

Buddy passes get you to places inexpensively but not always the most direct way—since Delta’s only flight to Buenos Aires leaves from Atlanta, we had to go North to end up South. And you have no real control over when you leave—you’re standby, and buddies are the lowest on the standby totem. Lita and Lynn decided to go to New York first to catch a couple of plays and I decided to go with them and spend time with my friend Souci, the only close friend I didn’t get to see when I there in May. It was nourishing to have four practically uninterrupted days with an old friend—Souci and I have the same birthday, date not year, so we have a special affinity.

We got stuck, both in New York and Atlanta—higher priority standbys started listing for the Buenos Aires flights. Getting stuck can be a nightmare, staying in over-priced, less than 2-star hotels, eating bad food, running back and forth to the airport. Luckily we didn’t have that experience. In New York we were staying with friends so we didn’t have the expense of accommodations and since Lita was monitoring the flight loads, didn’t make needless trips to the airport. Lynn and Lita got two more days in one of the most exciting cities in the world—saw another Broadway show, and I got to have another day with Souci and see Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls.

I preface the movie with Mr. Perry’s name because it is not Ntozake’s play. He was added a narrative, a story line that would encompass some of the poetry, and I do mean some, no more than 40% of the Ms. Shange’s poetry was in his screenplay. I admit, I wasn’t expecting much from the script—this might challenge a writer of Toni Morrison’s caliber—but I did expect that he would retain the heart of her play. He did not. The transformation of the women in Zake’s play was learning to love themselves--they already loved each other. There wasn’t a lot of love between Mr. Perry’s colored girls in the beginning of his piece. Sisterhood was one of the primary building blocks of the play. Creating so much tension between the women in the film, destroyed this. And the lines were all over the place. Nyla starts with Graduation Night, one of the Lady in Yellow’s poems, and ends up as the Lady in Blue, on the abortion table. So in addition to only including a fraction of Ntozake’s words, these were not her characters. I could fill a page with things that troubled me about the movie but instead I’ll talk about what was right with it—the performances of the actresses. With the exception of Whoopi and Janet, I thoroughly enjoyed the performances. And Ntozake‘s poetry, the little bit that we heard, is still powerful.

We caught a couple of movies while we were stranded in Atlanta. And thanks to a Delta customer service, who gave us hotel vouchers for a nice hotel near that airport that only cost $50 a night, we paid practically nothing for housing. Our flight wasn’t until 9:45, so during the day we took the free shuttle to the airport and from there grabbed the subway to Colony Square and went to the movies. We don’t get many movies I want to see in Mexico, so movies are one of my favorite stateside pass times. We enjoyed the time, but I was more than ready to be in Buenos Aires when we arrived five days later than planned.

Lynn’s apartment was in La Recoleta, a high-end barrio, and she’d done a fabulous job with her art-deco remodel. She and Lita thought they wanted a nap but were energized the moment we hit the streets and began exploring the neighborhood. There was a great deli right next door, a couple of bakeries on the block and a fruit and a veggie stand just across the street. We passed the Recoleta Cemetery, Recoleta Park, and stopped in a couple of Lynn’s favorite shops on Avenida Alvear as we made our way to an outdoor café for lunch. It’s a wonderful walking neighborhood.

BA has been experiencing an annual inflation rate of 20% for almost three years, so it’s no longer cheap by American standards, just inexpensive, and petty crime is rampant—hold onto your bag because pick-pockets and purse snatchers are everywhere. But it’s a vibrant and exciting place, and a bargain compared with cities like Paris and New York so was filled with tourist, many from Spain. But between the inflation and corruption it’s not a good place for the much of its population. I tried to new experiences but went back to some of the places I’d visited before. We didn’t get to a tango club this time but did get out to hear some jazz, caught the Alfredo Remus Trio at a different club,Notorious, than the one I went to last visit. Bassist, Remus, who was celebrating 50 years in music, was one of he best bass players I’ve ever heard. Went to the antique market in San Telmo, again. You don’t have to be interested in the merchandise, which is wonderful, to enjoy the market—it’s such a feast for the senses you can choose just to sit at a café and observe. San Telmo on Sunday is one of my favorite Buenos Aires experience.

Our time was much too short—we would have extended the trip but the flights didn’t look good later in the week. And I left feeling the same way I did after my first visit there, that I want to come back for a month. I wanted more BA time but smiled when I returned to Umarán. I love my new house—after four tries I've created an environment that really reflects me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stupidity, Film and Music

My intention had been to post more frequently but my computer crashed and getting it up and going again took time. Probably didn’t handle this in the most efficient way but will know what to do next time, and definitely will never again be lackadaisical about backing up my hard drive. The night I finally decided that I couldn’t go to bed without backing up to the exterior hard drive, I’d purchased three months before, the computer froze. And when I booted up again I had a blank screen. At that moment, I did not appreciate God and Her sick sense of humor. Spent a week or so kicking myself, generally in a bad mood, impatient, for the first time in a couple of years, with all the inconveniences of living in Mexico. But lots was going on, so I didn’t stay blue long.

Just before the computer crashed, I was enjoying the film festival, the annual Expresion en Corto that brings filmmakers, most of them young, from all over the world to San Miguel and Ciudad de Guanajuato. Checking out the film festivals was one of the things I enjoyed about living in New York and not something I expected to find in San Miguel. The weather kept me in the first day. We were in the middle of a very different rainy season when the festival started. This year it poured, often, in the middle of the day and it was cooler than normal. So I stayed in the first day I'd planned to go and missed Argentine director Lucrecia Martel. But I got out to the Inaugural Ceremony and opening party, saw lots of good films, and got to hear Daniel Ellsberg speak after the screening of the documentary about his release of the Pentagon Papers, The Most Dangerous Man in America, the night before the Afghan equivalents were released to the media.

And this year I followed the festival to Guanajuato for a day and got experience it in a university town. This is another town that offers a nice counterpoint to San Miguel. Living here you miss the energy that young people bring to a town. Found a great restaurant, explored the city a little but mostly watched the films. My favorites were Havanyork, a documentary connecting hip-hop in New York with Havana, and La Mitad del Mundo, a coming of age film where a slightly retarded young man discovers his sexual prowess. Mexico has several film festivals and maybe next year I’ll get to some of the others.

I’d planned to go to Mexico City to hear sax master Richie Cole. Trumpeter Luis Gasca organized his Mexican gigs and he was coming to Club Zinco, playing with some of the local musicians—Gabriel, Tyler and Bobby. I’d been looking forward to this weekend—had been wanting to check out jazz in DF and could couple the music with a visit to their big Sunday market, that sells everything from antiques to underwear. But after the unexpected computer expenses, I was sensible and cancelled the trip—I was supposed go to Tlaquepaque at the end of the month and couldn't afford to do both. Found out the Monday after their Club Zinco gig that they were coming to San Miguel. So I still got to hear them. They rocked—this was the best jazz I’ve heard in Mexico. And more great music came a couple weeks later—last week Sibyl English brought down the house at her first gig in town with a full band. That girl can sing, her vocal range and placement are extraordinary, and she’s not afraid to mix it up, incorporate a gospel riff into one of her Latin American songs. Sibyl had a different kick-ass band backing her. A film festival, my kind of music—San Miguel’s been feeling like a city the last few weeks.

Mid-month, I went with Lynn and Lita to Tlaquepaque. Love being in that city. Some of it is nostalgia. Tlaquepaque was our first stop on my initial exploration of central Mexico in ‘04. It’s tourist area is small, easy to navigate and filled with shops that feature contemporary Mexican design. It’s always a good change of pace from colonial San Miguel. Especially when coupled with the two trade shows, Enart, a crafts expo in Tlaquepaque, that runs concurrently with a furniture expo in Guadalajara, only 20 minutes away.

We stayed at Casa Campo with Pepe and Mony, friends I met through Lita—when Pepe was in Bali for 18 months she kept Eva, his dog. They’re closing at the end of month, causalties of the downturn in the economy. I was glad I got to spend time with them at the end of this era. I don’t know them well but always enjoy our time together. I love Pepe’s spirit, he’s free and fearless. And Mony is entering a new chapter in her personal life now that her daughter is off to law school. Saturday night we went out to a restaurant/club in an upscale mall in Guadalajara, filled with US stores and restaurants. It wasn't the US stuff but the sophistication that attracted me. I didn't see anything like this on my first visit to Guadalajara six years before. Both Lynn and I had the same idea, we might want to come back and hang out, investigate the city for a couple of weeks.

Cross your fingers that I can get the files off my old hard drive, that getting them doesn’t cost a fortune, and that I’m able to replace the money I’m spending on the computer so that I can still go to Buenos Aires at the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Madea's Not My Flavor

My last post generated lots of comments, delivered directly to my email account because unbeknown to me my you can only place comments on my blog if you have gmail, yahoo or AOL accounts. After a lengthy conversation with one of my younger friends, who thoroughly enjoys Mr. Perry’s work, I admitted it was unfair for me to dismiss the Madea movies based on promos I’ve seen. One of the local stations here in San Miguel was running Madea’s Family Reunion, so I watched it Sunday night. This was a film version of a morality play, delivering a strong message of the need to respect yourself and others, and assume personal responsibility. I understood immediately why these films are so popular. It was not the message but the method of delivery that I didn’t like. I prefer a subtler approach. I thought the film was didactic, overburdened with instructive or factual matter to the exclusion of graceful and pleasing detail so that they are pompously dull and erudite (

Instead of being fully developed characters, most of the people in Mr. Perry’s film represented ideas. The bus driver was the ideal man; both the mother and the wedding planner were examples of misplaced values. They were one dimensional like paper-doll. Most human beings have more than one note, generally we are complex, often riddled with contradictions—think Denzel’s Washington in American Gangster, Pilot in Song of Solomon or any of people that inhabit Toni Morrison’s stories. I think this technique of storytelling is manipulative. Please, present me with a three-dimensional person and let me draw my own conclusions about who he is. Don’t insult my intelligence.

In playwriting 101, one of the first things you’re taught is, show don’t tell. For the most part Mr. Perry shows us his characters’ one note but often doesn’t trust his audience to interpret what they’ve seen. Ms. Whitfield’s actions make it clear that her character has misplaced values but he still editorializes. Madea says, more than once, that she’s bourgie. When it comes to theme, he never shows, he only tells. The two most blatant examples are both delivered by Ms. Tyson: her speech expressing sorrow for the younger women because they don’t have the quality of relationship with their men that she had with her deceased husband, and the sermon that she delivers near the end of the film. Why didn’t he show us the relationship Cicely describes? Madea and her husband could have illustrated this; instead he uses them for comic relief—playing the dozens, verbally abusing each other. And I don’t like films that sermonize—I think sermons should be delivered in the pulpit.

Clearly Madea’s Family Reunion wasn’t a film that appealed to me. But I don’t object to this movie, my objection is that kind of Black film I’d enjoy hardly ever finds its way to the screen. I don’t want you to think I don’t go to the movies, I do. Every year films I like are released but a couple times each year I’d like them to reflect my culture.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remembering For Colored Girls

Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, was the play that defined the 70s for me. I was just becoming a woman, had recently celebrated my 25th birthday, when it hit New York. My friends and I had never seen anything like it on stage before. Seven Black actresses, in ever shade from café au lait to dark chocolate, sashshayed across the stage in costumes reminiscent of Ailey’s Revelations, expressing in vivid and powerful language details of failed relationships. Although some critics thought it was negative portrayal of Black men, they missed the point. It spoke of the bad choices many Black women of our generation made until we, like the women in the piece, learned to love ourselves fiercely.

When the Public Theatre held auditions for the road show, every dramatic Black actress in my age range was hoping to get a role. I made to second callbacks for the Lady in Yellow and experienced jealousy, for the first time, when my then-friend, LaTanya Richardson, was cast as the Lady in Red.

I was surprised at how many details I remembered, from the performances I saw, when a friend told me that they were reviving the piece. Risë Collins, the Lady in Purple, moving across the stage with the grace of Judith Jamison in “Sechita.” My friend Laurie Carlos’ ultimate sass in “Sorry” that was equally matched with poignancy in another poem where she talked about the “dying, dangling between her legs.” Aku Kadogo, the Lady in Yellow, assuming a wicked walk for “Graduation Night,” so her friends wouldn’t know that she was the only virgin in the crowd. And Trazana Beverley’s impeccable timing on the refrain, charming, charming, as she talked about the lover who only called in the middle of the night.

I had assumed they were reviving the play when I went online to get details and was disappointed to learn that my least favorite director, Tyler Perry, was reinterpreting Colored Girls for the screen. It is impossible not to respect Mr. Perry’s accomplishments. He has made a series of highly successful movies—has made a fortune while providing employment for a multitude of Black actors. Although there’s a vast audience for Mr. Perry’s films, he doesn’t make the kind of movies I enjoy. Admittedly, I’ve only seen a couple. I’ve assiduously avoided those that veered toward slapstick or the ones where Mr. Perry appeared in drag. Why the hell didn’t he hire an actress? These weren’t comedy sketches for Saturday Night Live.

It stretches my credulity to think that the same director who creates stereotypical, somewhat farcical characters in his movies can handle the complexities of Shange’s women. And I don’t understand why he’s including men or why most of the actresses he’s cast are significantly older than the original cast. But each generation interprets life differently and Tyler definitely has his finger on the pulse of today’s popular Black culture. Maybe the movie that I’d love wouldn’t appeal to today’s 20-somethings. Perhaps he’ll surprise me and create something I’ll respect. But if not, a new generation will get to hear Ntozake’s amazing poems. I think she’s the wordsmith of my generation.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hanging in the States

It was great being back in New York. Although Manhattan’s neighborhoods are lined with the same chain stores found in suburban malls—something we never would have predicted in the 70s—and artists with marginal incomes can no longer afford to live in the City, the Big Apple is still vibrant. But I miss the old Manhattan—miss the multitude of shops where up-and-coming designers sold their wares, miss the thriving off-off Broadway scene that included several Black theatres, where you could watch a play like For Colored Girls' development from the bars to Broadway. But it’s still an exciting place to be, if you have money. We didn’t have to have big bucks to enjoy it when I moved there.

Theatre is where I worship and seeing Fela was a spiritual rejuvenation—it is the most exciting piece of theatre I’ve seen in more than 20 years. Although I didn’t see Memphis, I was shocked when Fela didn’t get any of the top 4 musical awards—Best Musical, Director, Actor, or Actress. And my friends who’d seen both thought that although Memphis was brilliantly executed, it was pretty standard Broadway musical fare. But Fela was innovative—it felt authentic, made the audience believe they were at the Shrine, experiencing Fela’s final performance at his club in Lagos. Bill T. Jones’ direction completely suspended the fourth wall. The other show I saw, Race, was disappointing. Mamet didn’t nail the Black perspective on race. And Terry Washington, who I love on screen, didn’t excite me on stage. But, James Spader’s was fabulous, his performance was worth the price of the ticket.

I got to see many of my old friends, OD on seafood—Spice Market, in the meatpacking district, and Flex Mussels, on the upper eastside, were my restaurant favorites—and Bianca, my adopted kid who I hadn’t seen in almost two years, came down from Buffalo.

Before heading south to Atlanta for a couple of days, I took the train to Baltimore and spent a day at the hospital, visiting with my friend who is battling cancer. I didn’t hang out in Atlanta but spent my time there laughing and talking with mama’s girl friends. These were friendships that endured for a lifetime—women that she met at her first teaching job at Turner High School in the early 50s. All of them worked. Most also had families and, as their children got older and they could spend more time outside their homes, moved out of the classroom into careers in education. They’re not as spry as they used to be and in varying stages of forgetfulness but they’re still dynamic. These are the women who served as my role models when I was growing up, the women who taught me not to accept the limitations of racism and sexism; that my place was anyplace I wanted to explore. When I headed back to San Miguel I was sorry that I hadn’t planned to stay in the States for another week.

As much as I enjoyed being back in New York, I no longer want to live there. My quality of life is so much better here in San Miguel but next time I’ll plan a longer visit. Spend a few days in Atlanta, then head for New York. Although it’s hot and humid as hell in the City during the summer, I think I’ll try and figure out how to spend a couple of weeks there next year in late June, early July. With the online discount theatre tickets, I should be able to see a couple of plays and experience the beginning of the summer music scene. That part of New York hasn’t changed, there’s still great free music almost every night after the 4th of July. Maybe also spend a few days in Baltimore, check out Artscape and OD on crabs.

Monday, May 31, 2010

New York Bound

As of 4:30 PM, Friday the 28th, I am no longer a property owner in New Orleans—my almost 5-year nightmare ended just days before the start of a new hurricane season, one predicted to be severe. I was too afraid that something might happen to postpone the closing to plan a celebration, but two friends were celebrating birthdays last weekend and at each we raised a glass to my freedom.

And Sunday I leave for New York, a belated 60th birthday present from one of my closest friends. We were planning a spa trip but when she suggested we change to a few days in NY as tourists, I jumped at it. Rubbing and aroma-therapy are great but right now I need a cultural infusion more—I’ll get to see Fela and Race, Picasso’s exhibit at the Met and walk the streets of the city that was my home for 30 years and acquaint myself with its new rhythm—New York has changed significantly since I left in 2005.

Before I return to Mexico, I’m going to Atlanta for a couple of days to see two of my mom’s closest friends, women who have been second mothers to me who at 89 and 91 aren’t as spry as they used to be. Roberta taught me to speak-up and speak plain. Georgia was the first actress I knew and kindled my interest in theatre.

Sorrow always seems to accompany joy these days—the day before the house closed I found out that one of my dearest friend’s cancer has come back with a vengeance. Life used to deliver of periods of unbridled joy. I didn’t know o relish them, I’ll be more appreciative if they come again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I’ve been silent for way too long but nothing much was happening—not with me, not in San Miguel after the last of the snowbirds left the week following Easter. The city is empty now, the foreign community started leaving the 1st of May to avoid our hottest month, and many businesses have closed until the 1st of June. So far, it hasn’t been bad. We had a couple of extremely hot days where the afternoon heat permeated the city until after 5pm but we’ve also had rain. Although the tour books said the rainy season in San Miguel started in May, the rains have come later since I moved here. This May has been much cooler than the others—the last couple of mornings I’ve needed a sweatshirt when I’ve rushed out to yoga at 7:45.

I’ve been waiting, unfocused except for my constant underlying prayer, Please let me my house in New Orleans sell and end this almost 5-year nightmare. This time my prayers were answered—I signed a contract to sell the house in late April and cleared the final hurdle last week when the house appraised for more than the selling price. What a difference time makes—two years ago I wouldn’t have accepted this bid that is significantly less than what I paid for the house. But ending the nightmare is far more important than money now.

This morning I went to the American Consulate to have my Specific Power of Attorney notarized. Getting something notarized at the Consulate always pisses me off. Something that can be done for a nominal fee in the States is a fortune at the Consulate. The last time I had something notarized in the States I paid about $4. Here they charge by the page and I needed to notarize four copied of a 3/page document. Instead of paying $16, it cost me approximately $120. But the Consulate has a monopoly of this service outside the US so they can charge what they want. I have to keep perspective--it's cheaper than flying to New Orleans to close this deal myself.

What’s next? Do I try and create a livelihood here where the living is easier or return to the States, where jobs are scare and my expenses would quadruple? Or maybe just become a bum, moving from one cheap place to another until the money runs out? The last option may sound tempting but uselessness would bore me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back Home

Sleep is still elusive but everything else about being back in San Miguel is better. The weather was still a little cool when I returned and we were continuing to have rain in what’s generally the dry season. But three weeks later, Spring’s in full bloom. The mornings are a little cool, but not so much that I need to be multi-layered for the 8am yoga class, by midday there’s full sun. Perfect weather.

The first couple of days back were hectic—my friend Blair arrived the day before I did, the Writers’ Conference started the next morning, and in-between sessions I was running around paying bills, getting groceries and other house essentials. I was probably a little bitchy the second night back but by the third day I was enjoying both: a visit with an old friend I hadn’t seen for a decade, the richness of this year’s Conference.

And it was rich—both entertaining and informative. I learned something from every session I attended, and if I missed one, most were available on CD. Having a bilingual Conference, all the major sessions had simultaneous translation and several workshops were offered in Spanish, involved more of the Mexican speaking community. And the community at large turned out in full force to hear Barbara Kingsolver’s keynote—over 800 people were in the audience that night. She had a great sense of humor which surprised me, for some reason I'd envisioned her as more somber. And I thought her address, Find my way into The Lacuna, was exceptional. Her writing process was revealed as she discussed the book’s development. I walked away determined to record every single idea that flirts through my mind, regardless of whether it relates to any of my interests or projects I’m developing. Over time, I may see a through line, maybe not. But The Lacuna developed from seemingly unrelated imaginings.

I stayed in my pajamas for a couple of days after Blair left but then started working in my garden—every pot was crowded, everything needed to replanting. Now that they’re not root-bound, they’re starting to grow. I’m starting to feel more like myself.

Am getting back to my normal routine with a major addition, trying to oversee things in New Orleans from a distance. I feel like the record is on repeat—I’ve done this before, fixed that house on North Broad to get it on the market. Hopefully this time, we’ll get to the end of this song—SALE.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New New Orleans Hell

Following a fabulous 60th birthday party, hosted by my friend Marlene, I left for New Orleans the the following Tuesday, January 26th, filled with the laughter of that night. One of my sister girls, Felicia, questioned me on the timing—thought I should enjoy the glow of my birthday for a few more days before venturing out into the unknown—likewise my former property manager. But my gut told me it was time. Supposedly the City had signed off on the deal—a grant from them was providing part of the financing for Children of the Village Foundation, a youth empowerment organization, to purchase my property for their headquarters—but two weeks after I got that call, I still hadn’t received paperwork.

Things were shaky from the get-go. I was supposed to meet with their Board Chair on Thursday but that immediately got pushed out to the following day and then he didn’t show. The excuse was, he couldn’t make it in from Baton Rouge, where he works, because New Orleans had torrential rains that day. Tuesday he was off to Miami for the Super Bowl and didn’t fit me in before he left. But the real shit, which I learned from a neighbor, was that they had moved out in November, around the date we were supposed to close. The date she told me was definite, so I purchased a ticket and will now have to pay an additional $180 to use. Why move on the down-low? Why leave my house unoccupied without electricity, gas or water for two months? And if she wasn't living there, why the hell wouldn’t she give me the keys?

I won’t bore you with the details but I finally got into the house on February 8th—almost two full weeks after I arrived. And it was a filthy—toilets looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in a year, probably hadn’t cleaned the stove since she moved in, and there was mold in the refrigerator. And several things, like the iron-gate to the driveway and the faucet in the kitchen—not some cheap faucet but a Kohler—were broken. At least all of the major systems were working. Since I haven’t told any lies or exaggerated one iota, I’ll call her by name, Betty Washington. For those of you who are familiar with Bebe’s kids, she must be one of them grown-up with the lunacy of Mo’Nique’s character in Precious—I’m speaking from hearsay now because I haven’t seen the film. I say that because she continues to call—I left some things in the house I need to get, we’re still trying to buy the house. When I see her name on the caller ID, I let it go to voice mail. The saddest things are that this woman works with at-risk teens—how can they learn anything about moral integrity with her as a role model—and that one Hurricane Katrina survivor would do this to another.

Luckily a guy who helped me with the restoration of the house is working furiously to get it fluffed before I return to San Miguel next Thursday, and has also given me a good price. I’ll deal with Betty later, am completed focused right now on completing this task. But trust me, I’ve got plans for her. I can’t wait to return to my mountain home. The Writers’ Conference starts the day after I arrived and my good friend Blair is coming down—will actually get there the day before I return. So in less than a week, there’ll be creativity and enjoyment in my life again.

I was here for the Super Bowl and now the Mardi Gras season is in full swing. I was glad the Saints won—New Orleans needed that shot in the arm—but didn’t watch the game, nothing personal I just don’t like football. And will be too busy with the house to check out Mardi Gras, but it’s always been too much of a drunken bacchanal for my taste—my favorite New Orleans celebration is JazzFest.

I’ve managed to hang out a couple of times. Twice with my friend Claudia, who, like me, is here from San Miguel, fixing her house following the tenant from hell. The first time, we were in the Quarters on the day they had the Buddy D parade—a tribute to a local sports writer who promised to wear a dress if the Saints went to the Super Bowl but died before that happened. Five thousand men, gay and straight, processing in dresses. This day was a much-needed reminder of why I wanted to move to here.

It's a beautiful house so if you know anyone who wants to live in New Orleans, have them contact me. I’ve got a new email address,—with all these unexpected expenses, I'm forced to switch to a free service. The weather since I came has been miserable—much colder than normal, torrential rains, sleet and snow but in true New Orleans fashion the sun shone yesterday for the beginning of the Mardi Gras parades. Not laughing now but know I’ll find my way through this and discover my sense of humor. Laughter is the only way to get through this life—it’s a bitch and then you die.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It’s Not Lake Effect Snow

When I was bitching to my Goddaughter, who is living in Buffalo, about how cold it’s been in San Miguel, she responded, At least it’s not lake effect snow. She’s right, but in Buffalo they have central heat and thermostats—they can warm up when they come inside. New Year’s Eve the weather was normal San Miguel winter—it reached 70˚ mid-afternoon. But the temperature started falling with the New Year. And, we’ve had rain—something that seldom happens here in winter. Between the lower temperatures, drizzles and downpours, and cloudy afternoons, it's been colder inside my house than it is outside. Bianca was right but everything is relative. Buffalo may have had lake effect snow but she can get warm when she goes inside.

Continuing with this everything is relative idea, although I’ve been bitching all year because I still haven’t closed the deal to sell my house in New Orleans, I realized 2009 wasn’t bad. Maybe not my best year, or the one I envisioned having but okay, especially given the global economic meltdown. I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions but am making one now—I’m gonna stop bitching about how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues to negatively impact my life. What’s important is that San Miguel is an easy place to be and that most days I enjoy my life here.

I wasn’t enjoying life, huddled in my office with the space heater. So when the temperatures continued heading south, I made life easier and went to stay with my friend Lita. Her house has three fireplaces that, unlike mine, provide heat, along with heated mattress covers that deliver much more warmth than my electric blanket. Most days, life is good.