Tuesday, July 17, 2018

HOMELESS BEAUTY ON BARRACKS

Homeless Beauty on Barracks

I cannot stop thinking about the homeless beauty outside Café EnVie. Tall, athletic, dirty. White t-shirt tied in a tight bow above her belly button.

Walking home from St. Cecilia’s, the taste of brown butter still on my lips, potatoes Lyonnaise crunch still savored by taste buds. I had eaten every bite, my only meal since breakfast. Redfish Almondine, somehow flaky and tender. Only one of our five carried leftovers, the result of earlier Willie Mayes fried chicken. Her ‘food baby’ wouldn’t let her finish her own flaky fish dinner. Barracks Street was busy, of course, and as I was transported to San Francisco’s foggy bay by a friend’s words, I needed to move behind and beside to make room for evening strollers from opposite directions.

We crossed over Decatur, music from further away filling the air. A clump of people crowded, crouched over at their waists on the adjacent corner, like kids roasting marshmallows around a campfire, leaning in to check the brownness. The group huddled, swarming like ants on a hill over the pile of blankets and bedding-four or five of them; it was hard to tell.

Just past the last window of EnVie, her back to us, was another, perhaps part of that group, perhaps not.

As she turned, my eyes locked with hers. I had to look up. She was tall. Not thin. Her skin, exposed above her belly, I thought, would be soft to the touch, like a toddler’s that gives to a mother’s tickling fingers. Backlit by the street lamp, a mass of hair, dirty, thick, the beginning of dreads perhaps.

In slow motion, she stepped out of the street’s light as I moved forward, still listening, part of my mind fogged with San Francisco.

The homeless beauty’s eyes locked on mine. Her sadness, naked. She hadn’t planned on looking. I felt her surprise. She could have been my daughter’s age. She is someone’s daughter, I thought.

Instinctively, I smiled. My smile wasn’t pitying. My face opened without counterfeit. She looked down, found the pavement. I continued walking, hearing my friend’s words, but not.

“Excuse me…could you spare your leftovers, mommy?” the girl my daughter’s age asked the only one of us who had them.

Although I didn’t turn around to watch the exchange, I imagined the passing of the box to the girl as I heard my friend answer. “Of course, sweetheart. You enjoy it.”

I cannot get the girl out of my head. Did she sit down and eat right away? Did she walk across the street corner to share with the other five? Did she sleep alone, somewhere safe or stay up all night until the sky began to light a new day?
     
As I sit inside Café EnVie this morning, an army duffel lies almost hidden on the 2nd story balcony beside the door of an empty apartment. For Lease sign hanging by only one hook. What else lies beyond my line of sight? Is she there, pressed against the wall, shaded by brick and plaster? She was athletically built. Did she climb the black wrought iron post? Shimmy up, dragging the bag, all her worldly belongings upon her wiry shoulders? Was it flung up and over or placed lovingly, carefully where it lies? Is she sleeping there now, belly full of redfish almondine and crispy potatoes?

What changed her path, brought her to the French Quarter? She is someone’s daughter, once beloved-or not, I guess. I cannot imagine her mother’s pain. Does she know where her daughter puts her matted head at night? Does she cry, weep, gnash her teeth or does she sleep soundly, head nestled in downy dreams.

Does the homeless beauty sleep, dreaming of home? I cannot get her out of my head.

POWERFUL WRITING MADE POSSIBLE BY NOWM 2018

Powerful Writing made possible via New Orleans Writing Marathon 

“Why don’t you take a pause and clean your room?” This last line delivered in a humorous anecdote while breakfasting at Croissant D’or, and as I laughed, something clicked in my head and I immediately had to write.
            I was reminded of all the times I had said something similar to my own two kids. Robbie’s carpet was a deep, dark blue, but I only know that because I bought it. Katie wanted red, bright like summer tomatoes, but settled on a dark forest green when Momma put her foot down.
            How many wasted moments, worrying/nagging/fighting about the stupid rooms?
            “I can’t even see your floors!” I would argue. “Why did I pay for carpet if we were never going to see it again?”
          And Katie, preparing for Air Force departure, piles, heaping piles of clothes and all the things she’d collected in her eighteen years so far. She was only allowed one large khaki military bag and a small duffel when I dropped her at the hotel with the other new recruits, so she was cleaning her room and deciding what to do with things.
           Two entire dresser drawers were filled with ‘special rocks.’ I remember standing in her doorway, fighting the urges to cry because she was soon leaving and sigh because clearly, I had missed the cyclone hurricane earthquake that had come through her bedroom sometime during the night.
          “Didn’t you get rid of your rock drawers when we moved here?” I sighed anyway. Sheepishly looking up at me, her hands cupping stones and then letting them slide through her fingers down into the drawer, she smirked. “These are my new rocks.”
          And then Robbie was gone, and I was sprawled on my driveway as sirens howled and police arrived and cars parked everywhere as word spread, and I did my best to stop screaming, keep breathing, and answer unanswerable questions. A special cleaning crew would be necessary. I couldn’t return into my home until then, and I needed to be back inside. Exposed items would need to be discarded, due to the ‘nature of his death’. 
When my best friend asked, ‘what do I do with all the things in Robbie’s room,’ I sobbed. “Get rid of it. Get rid of all of it!” Another friend cried, ‘No, No, you don’t want to do that.’
            Until then, I wasn’t aware of the dozen or more people gathered behind me on my driveway. Had they witnessed the past hours of my destruction, the screaming, me at my worst moments? It didn’t matter. None of it mattered.
          The deep sea blue carpet was ripped up that night while I lay not sleeping, shaking with shock. I returned to my home early the next morning and stood in vacant space. Newly painted walls. White. Floor bare of everything. Plywood, waiting to be replaced with a neutral low shag.
         I can see the floor now, but would give almost everything to have  back that blue carpet, mysterious and hidden again, and my boy sprawled atop the mess smirking, rolling his eyes, and ignoring his messy room. 








Monday, July 9, 2018

Yes, Baby, Yes!

Monday, July 9       EnVie Cafe, 4:30 PM

In the Quarter. Again. Sitting across from Janice, her pen moving furiously across her journal, a secret smile upon her lips.

It feels like home, like it has been too long since I was here last. Less than five months since I walked the hot concrete streets, but an entire year since the NOWM.

More familiar every year, more family than the year earlier, deeper hugs, brighter reconnections, and a bigger pile of lookin' forward to...

'The sounds of New Orleans' on the speakers, jazz, raucous across the scales. It would let me know I was here even if I were blind. My ears would give this place away--the sax and trumpets, the drawling of "Yes, Baby, Yes!" and the bravado of the 'Who dats?!'

New journal now filling, purchased just for this event. New faces to meet, places to discover, words to pen.

Let the magic take me where it may. I am ready to let it in.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & SASSY SALADS

Friday, July 6th 1:54 PM
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Lancaster's Diner

Mmm...my tastebuds already know the Ephemera which awaits them, here at a high two seater table in the front window of Lancaster's. New flavors, delivered by the gingham shirted, overall short wearing waitress, reminiscent of Sweetilicious.

The first spoonful is not a disappointment. Rich yet delicate, the spice creates close my eyes appreciation for the shrimp and crab that sacrificed their lives-heightened as the heaping Sassy Salad-1/2 order sky high-is set beside the cup of bisque.

This place feels like home-warm, cozy, filling me with contented sighs as I settle into the hair. Country music softly plays in the background; Janice across the small square table.

The four boys at the adjacent table finally abandon their video games, devices pocketed as platters of chicken & fries are devoured. Mmm...the oldest groans, biting into crispy fried chicken. Finally, over fries and ranch dressing, the boys begin to make eye contact with each other, sentences are exchanged, giggles from one to another...

"...git a little dirt on my booooots," one sings aloud to his three tablemates.

Hearing the choppy phrases from their table restores a bit of my faith. Seven of eight of the family/group disappeared into their video games when they first sat; the four boys here, the other four across the cafe. Dad sat alone, despite being with his two elementary aged kids and beside his wife.

"Oooh...OohOOH!" The younger teen emphasizes the words of the country song-boy humor-innuendo implied, giggling follows-they go back to eating. He strolls across the floor of Lancaster's to test his mother's proferred spoon of bisque-smells it before dropping his mouth onto the scoop.

The food is loosening their solitude. There is reaching across plates, grabbing from other plates, discussion of past meals, "remember that chicken at Leo's?" More singing, sharing, walks to the parents' table and back again.

The meal has reunited a family that was made of eight separate vessels when they arrived. They leave a clumsy, bumping into each other unit, jostling in safety of ONE, smiling and perhaps even unaware of what transpired.

Hope renewed-even as one by one outside on the sidewalk, they go back into hiding.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chocolate Ice Cream Toddler

Chocolate Ice Cream Toddler

Covington Farmers Market, 7/7/2018 ~11:30 a.m.

Mouth open like a baby bird, the chubby cheeks lend themselves to two deep dimples. Sweaty hair on the back of his neck evidence to his love of the music, as he bops his head in perfect rhythm to Lambert's band. Between bites of chocolate ice cream served to him by his mother, the youngster relaxes back into his stroller seat, blue flip flops tapping to the beat.

Unable to contain the musician inside him, his hands clap and he lurches forward, trying to escape. I can imagine him, dancing, holding the stroller for support, khaki shorts and purple t-shirt rocking.

Dance like nobody is watching I think, or, like you're two, blessed with long dark lashes, and chubby thighs that can withstand hours of unbridled moving, not a care in the world except the music...and that next bite of chocolate ice cream coming your way.

ROUGH AND READY (or not, here they come) WRITINGS FROM NOWM 2018

     Four years ago, I timidly approached my very first New Orleans trip. I still remember my trepidation, sweating in the backseat of an airport shuttle van, listening to some rather horrible women discussing 'friends' of theirs in the most uncomplimentary terms. I remember worrying that I was going to be late for the first night's events, having not realized just how long it would take the shuttle to get me to LeRichelieu, the final destination deep in the French Quarter comprised of one way streets.
     That was back in 2014, five New Orleans Writing Marathon events ago. I've only missed one year. The year my girl was stationed in Qatar and I didn't know when she was coming home. It was a horrible, awful, stressful year, and I needed to be home when the Air Force decided she could come home; so, I passed on New Orleans and my week of writing in good company.
     I was a poopy diaper the entire time, despite gifting myself with day writing trips of my own at home. It was not the same. I missed my peeps. I missed the streets of the French Quarter, freshly cleaned in the mornings and steaming hot during the days. I missed the companionship of friends, and the food, and the alcohol, and the sweaty, sticky, smelly, sensuousness of the place I had fallen in love with moments after first arriving.
     This year I arrived extra early, just to spend four days of time with a friend I made on that very first day of my very first NOWM. We have been writing outside of New Orleans, in parks and cafes, gazebos and benches, in silence and surrounded by bands and dancing.
     To keep my writing honest, and to appease some loyal 'fans', I have promised to post some of my daily writings here.
     The writings will be ROUGH.
     The writings will be REAL.
     But, they will be SHARED and hopefully appreciated.

So, please, read and feel free to comment. I am no longer afraid to throw my words out into the world before they are 'perfect' and revised and polished. Our words are powerful in all their forms and stages.
     Remember, life is too short to worry about things that simply do not matter. SHARE what you have to offer with those you love. I have never been sorry. I dare you to try it, too.