Sunday, September 02, 2007

new blog

I've moved over to a new blog. Trying to more to actively celebrate my new home. Still homesick for New Orleans, but I feel very lucky to have ended up where I am. Come visit me here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Four Months Later

I’m going to skip the whole self-loathing “I haven’t blogged in four months” BS. It’s not like people were reading this anyway. But before I get into what’s happened during the past four months, I’d like to bring your attention to a quote from my last, September 30th, blog. It read:

If I wanted damp and bone-chilling cold, I would have moved to Maine or Vermont.
I think I’d like Maine or Vermont a lot. The only thing that keeps me away is,
you guessed it, the damp and bone-chilling cold.

And the long and the short of it is that I was sold a totally false bill of goods when it comes to Kentucky and weather. When I woke up on Monday it was 5 degrees. It didn’t get above 15 that day. We haven’t seen 30 in at least a week. I’m thinking that the word “mild” in terms of “mild winters” means something radically different here in the Midwest than it does in, say, Louisiana. Maybe it means “mild” as in, “It’s mild enough that the squirrels don’t freeze mid-motion like little furry lawn sculpture.”

In the past four months:

  • Jason and I have officially called off the relationship. We’re still best friends, we’re still roommates, but we’ve done away with the flimsy, in-name-only couple-dom.
  • I spent Christmas with the family on the Outer Banks.
  • I painted the kitchen “Kimono Blue,” or, as I prefer to call it, “Painter’s Tape Blue.”
  • We rearranged the living room.
  • We finally got the dryer fixed—in November!
  • Spent Thanksgiving with Jason’s family.
  • The Democrats took both houses.
  • I finally joined the 21st century and got an iPod—thanks to Mom and Jason.
  • I signed on for another summer with CTY. This summer I will be teaching Literature & the Arts at Saratoga during the second session.
  • We bought an outdoor fireplace.
  • I have not been back to New Orleans.

I’ve been toying with starting a new blog, but I don’t really want to do away with this one—after all, I am still stunningly, maddeningly homesick. I’ve basically decided that it’s going to take me a full year to get over the New Orleans blues. And maybe that’s doing me a disservice—to resign myself to having the mean reds for a year. But honestly, I think I had to cut myself that slack. I was starting to feel really crummy about my lack of drive to embrace my new home fully.

I love Louisville (except for the weather). I love my house. I like my job. And I can’t think of another city where I’d rather be (except New Orleans). And I realized a little while ago that the problem was not with Louisville. The problem was with me. I’m missing a piece of my heart, and that’s okay. It’s acceptable. I will, no doubt, get over it. I just need to get through the mourning period. (That being said, I know people who’ve mourned husbands for less time than I’ve mourned damned NOLA).

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

The temperature of things to come

The other day I asked one of my students, “Does it always rain this much in Louisville?” He gave me the hairy eyeball and said, “How did you think it gets so green here?”

Hm. I guess I should have put two and two together. It just never occurred to me to make the connection.

The first time it rained after I moved, I remember feeling a sweeping wave of relief. For the first time in 10 months, I could watch a downpour and not think about cheesecloth levees and ancient creaky pumps. I didn’t feel compelled to hop online and check out local message boards to see if anyone was concerned with rising water. In fact, the rain was a good thing. We’d just planted a few things in the garden; the rain would help them take root.

But around a month after moving in, the rain became a headache again. One particularly bad storm opened up leaks in the kitchen and bathroom ceiling. And for the next month or so, every storm made them worse and I spent way too much time wrangling with home warranties and repairmen. Pots and bowls and towels and stress.

Two weeks ago, I finally hired a maintenance man from work to fix the roof to the tune of more than $1000. The next storm came—the one that made national news for killing 8 people in the state—and new leaks popped up. He came back this week and fixed it. And it’s rained at least four times since then, and the house has stayed dry.

Ah the joys of homeownership.

The rain itself doesn’t bother me much. Now that I feel fairly certain that my ceiling isn’t going to cave in, I can appreciate the fact that the rain is, indeed, what makes Kentucky so green.

[The only remaining rain-related headache is that, shortly after we moved in, our clothes dryer went on the fritz. I’m sure it could be repaired, but after it konked out, in a wave of both nostalgia and environmentalism, I went out and bought a old-fashioned umbrella clothesline. It’s actually kind of charming. There’s something very Zen about hanging out your clothes. No energy used. Clothes last longer. Some of the clothes dry with fewer wrinkles (and some dry with more). But now I have to watch the weather forecast to determine when I can do my laundry. And there have been whole weeks when I’ve had to get very creative with my wardrobe because I had no clean clothes.]

What stuns me, though, is the cold.

It’s still September for godsake! Lows in the low 40s? I can’t get behind that. (By the way, between the time that I started this blog entry to this moment, the blue sky with puffy white clouds has darkened and it’s started raining). I refuse to put on my heat, so last night I bundled myself on the couch in long underwear, a sweater, and another long sweater that used to be my “winter coat” in New Orleans. And a blanket. And when I went to bed I covered myself in a bedspread, a thick down comforter, and a blanket. And I wore long underwear to bed.

Some people love it when they can break out the sweaters and the turtlenecks. I’m not one of these people. I am a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, which means, I’m happiest in t-shirt and jeans type of weather.

Many of my colleagues (mostly, the ones who were involved in my hiring) insist that the Louisvillian winters are not so bad. But those who don’t know me and don’t know my deep and passionate loathing for the cold tell tales of weeks without sun and damp bone-chilling cold.

If I wanted damp and bone-chilling cold, I would have moved to Maine or Vermont. I think I’d like Maine or Vermont a lot. The only thing that keeps me away is, you guessed it, the damp and bone-chilling cold.

This is going to be a challenge. I’m definitely going to need more long underwear. It is still, by god!, only September.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How I spent my August 29...

... among the living dead.

It’s been a while. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve started a blog entry and just stopped. Some of it was homesickness. Sometime in mid-August, just about the start of school, I got hit with a heap of the blues. I explained to friends and family in emails that it wasn’t Louisville’s fault; I’m as happy here as I have been since Day One. It’s New Orleans’s fault. Just can’t shake that city. Maybe I never will.

And some of it was the start of school. Again, not my new school’s fault. So far, three weeks into the school year, I am very, very happy. There are kinks and quirks, and it’s going to be a year of adjustment and learned-from (hopefully) mistakes, but as a whole I am still surfing the Honeymoon period. For the most part, I’m happy, impressed, and reasonably comfortable. It’s my old school’s fault. Specifically, the old faculty, my old students, the old total ease with which I walked the halls and did my job.

Or maybe all of this is my fault: my own fear and rejection of change.

Anyway, backtracking…

Part of the blues was spawned by the Anniversary. Not being THERE on August 29. I wore my “Be a New Orleanian, wherever you are” t-shirt to work and showed my Advanced Comp class a slideshow of my pictures from New Orleans. But the day passed so quietly; it was very lonely, more so, I think because Jason does not share my same ache for the city. (Although, at times that evening, he spontaneously reflected on the past year in a surprisingly heartfelt way).

How did we celebrate the Anniversary, which is also his birthday? By going to dinner at a Cajun restaurant, eating crawfish tails and drinking Abita Turbo Dog, and watching the walking dead file by.

Louisville is weird. In fact, the “shop local businesses” campaign’s slogan is “Keep Louisville Weird”—but, it doesn’t seem like the locals need reminding. One of the many weirdnesses is that this city seems to have some (yet undeterminable) attachment to horror movies. There are many events in the city that celebrate this oft uncelebrated genre. One of these events is the Annual Zombie March. On August 29 (8/29) at 8:29pm, around a hundred or so zombies gather at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road and march up Bardstown to Big Dave’s (aforementioned Cajun joint) where they converge for drinks and live music.

For weeks we’d seen stickers around town proclaiming “8:29… the end is nigh.” This was, of course, a bit unsettling to those of us for whom 8/29 and “the end” are already too closely linked. The week before 8/29, we saw a poster for the event and decided that there was no better or more ironic way to usher in this first Post-K year.

So, as the Weather Channel played re-runs of Katrina coverage on the TV above the bar, and as we sipped our Turbo Dogs, the undead streamed in, and I thought, yes, a little over a year ago, I felt just like they look. Still and all, unsettling. Click here to see more pictures from the Zombie Walk.

Moving on. Spent Labor Day weekend in New England. Whirlwind tour to visit Ma, Beth and famiglia, and my grandmother Vange. I dreaded the Labor Day travel (and the TSA security headache), but I was surprised at how smoothly it all went. Good to get away—no vacation at all this year, unless you count a 2-day trip to IKEA in Chicago—and great, as always to see family, no matter how brief a stay.

Ma’s in the hospital right now (or about to get released) after a fairly serious thyroid surgery. And I’ve decided that my addiction to television shows like “House” is definitely detrimental to my sanity. While medical dramas haven’t convinced me that I should straighten up and live a clean, healthy, active life, they have planted the idea that you can go into a hospital with a hangnail and come out with the plague. So far, it looks like Ma’s surgery wasn’t “House”-worthy, and I worried for nothing.

School has been very good. I’m struggling with teaching a new subject. Whenever I mention this to other teachers they come out with the adage: “Just remember, no matter how little you feel like you know, you know more than the kids.” And sometimes I’m not 100% sure that that’s true. I’ve spent more time researching Puritan literature this month than I have working on the house, planning my classes, and having fun combined. And believe me, while some research is fun, Puritan literature… well, it’s not so much fun. My growing dread is that I’ve spent all this time researching Puritan literature, and I’ll be done teaching it in a few weeks and have to spend as much time researching the next until. I’m on this train until… gosh, mid-spring I imagine, when I finally reach a period of American Lit I’m familiar with.

At McG, teaching was not just a job, it was a lifestyle. We were a family, a very dysfunctional one. The pressure to live your job was palpable. The “best” teachers were the ones who lived and breathed the work. And “keeping up with the joneses” meant giving over your August-June to the students and the school.

At LCS, this just isn’t the case. The school empties out after last period. If I stay even 45 minutes after school, I’m haunting empty hallways. The teachers don’t seem to be friends, at least not in an extracurricular sort of way. To some degree this is excellent; there’s no sense that the school is hungry for your soul. The pressure to give every last bit of yourself was institutional at McG. This school seems to respect your… well, your life. And that’s a lovely thing, but it takes some getting used to. That being said, I miss my dysfunctional family something awful.

It’s funny, I write these blogs in MS Word and then upload them onto blogger, and when I save them on my computer, I label them “hurricane journal # whatever.” This is #31. Will my post-K life always be a “hurricane journal”? I’m reluctant to change it. On the 29th, when I showed my Advanced Comp kids the Katrina pictures, I showed them a US map from the Times-Picayune that showed the spread of the Katrina Diaspora as of July 1, 2006. Houston and Atlanta are covered by huge dots representing the tens of thousands of New Orleanians still there. Louisville has a pinprick. I circled the dot and wrote, “Ms. Chipman.”

Diaspora is such a pretty word. A “scattering.” There’s no better label for me, I think. I am, I have been, scattered.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"She was the star"

Yesterday I spent the day at the Louisville Zoo. It was a great day, kind of a luxury with all this school work looming over my head. It's a nice zoo. More like a park with animals. It's bigger, I suspect, than the Audubon Zoo, and it has a wider array of animals. But it's not as nice, not as well laid out, and some of the animal environments seem a little dull for the animals. They do have a tremendous gorilla habitat (Dian Fossey, of "Gorillas in the Mist" fame, was from Louisville). But I went to the zoo to see the penguins.

(That comment makes sense to those of you who know I have several weird obsessions, sharks being my alpha obsession, pengiuns following a little behind at beta.)

It was, alas, a little disappointing. A nice enough environment, but only a handful of rockhoppers. Rockhoppers aren't among my favorites.

But still, it was a great day. Had lunch and ice cream. Pet the goats in the petting zoo. Checked out the cool vampire bat exhibit. After watching a few episodes of "Meercat Manor" on Animal Planet, the meercats were hilarious to watch. And after five hours, as I was getting ready to leave, I realized I'd missed a turn and missed a half dozen exhibits, so I made the rounds one last time.

On May 22, I wrote a joyous little blurb in this blog about the penguins' return from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to the Audubon Aquarium. They came by Fedex, and you could track them like little packages on the Fedex website. Patience, the 23 year old matriarch of the pengiun flock (do they call them flocks?), had been the star of the aquarium-- a penguin tamer than most housecats, who nuzzled on and cuddled with their keeper, Tom Dyer, every time he entered their environment. In June, I went to visit the penguins for my first post-K trip to the Aquarium. I cried when I saw them; heck I cried a dozen times while there. But it was Patience that I really wanted to see."

Last night I got a text message from Jason, who is working at a seminar in Nashville. It said, "Just met someone from Fedex. Said there was sad news about Patience. Google it."

Patience passed away from old age in late July. Every time i think about it, I get a huge lump in my throat. She was very old, three years older than the high end of her expected lifespan. But still, it's just so very sad.

There's a charming article about it here on Even in California, Patience was the star. The article's author, Sheila Stroup, writes:

She was such a hit that volunteers printed up T-shirts with her picture on them to raise money for the Aquarium of the Americas. And when it was time for the penguins to come back to New Orleans, they joked about sending one of theirs disguised as Patience and keeping her in Monterey.

"Like anyone could play her part," Tom said.

Friday, August 11, 2006

First day of school

Well, it's officially my first day of work. On my Blogger home page, I have an illustration of the current terror alert level color coded to match Seseme Street characters. Today's level is "Elmo/Ernie/Bert." And that pretty much matches my anxiety level. Not because of the thwarted plot; the left wing kook in me finds it all so hard to believe-- planes? again? and volitile explosives that could have been detected by any number of the chemical nose-thingies they have in airports? C'mon folks, are they really that unimaginative and foolish? Maybe...

Anyway, my anxiety level is Elmo/Ernie/Bert because I'd rather have my fingernails pulled from the quick than walk into a room full of people I don't know and be the new kid on the block. My stomach is in knots and I'm terrified. Plagued by all the "what ifs."

Plus, I'm not a morning person. I've never seen 745am in Louisville before (it's nice). Give me a few more hours of sleep (although I slept surprisingly well last night) and a few more iced lattes, and I might be more congenial.

Into the lions den... new city, new state, new school, new kids, new colleagues, heck I don't even have my tried and true subject matter to cling to... American Lit? Yikes. (By the way, I'm half way through the new book called The Mayflower-- excellent read).

As Lynn Samuels always says, "I'll be back tomorrow... as long as we're all still alive."

Monday, July 31, 2006

The drawback of watching too many design shows on HGTV or DIY is that they make you feel wholly inadequate. (Okay, I know there are multiple drawbacks to watching too many design shows. And yes, me watching a design show in my still-marginally unpacked home is very much like me watching the Food Network while eating Kraft Mac and Cheese.) Last night we watched a “Flip That House” where a man in Atlanta bought a run-down, cat infested, hellhole and wholly gutted it and renovated it and sold it in 14 days for a $40K profit. I went to bed thinking “I still can’t walk down my hallway because of all the boxes.” Sure, it’s TV, but it’s reality TV. Ha.

Six shot dead in New Orleans this weekend. I took a day off from reading the news after that one. It’s just too much. Of course, last week, we had our own brush with murder on the national news. In the end, though, it turned out to be so… Midwestern.

Last weekend, the corridor just north of here in Indiana (note: the closest town in Indiana is closer to me than the next closest town in Kentucky) was “terrorized” by a “sniper.” Three cars shot at on the highway, one unfortunate man from New Albany murdered. Not to minimize it—it is a horror, after all—but it turned out to be some disgruntled teen, universally praised by his neighbors in his tiny Indiana town for being the kind of kid who would help you shovel your walk in the winter, going postal after a disagreement during a hunting trip. His older relatives demanded that he help gut (or whatever hunters do) the deer; he refused; they berated him for not doing his share of the dirty work; he took his rifle and went to an overpass and shot at cars to “let off steam.”

Can’t dignify that by calling him a “sniper.” Despite protests to the contrary, he’s just a bad kid. And now he’s a murderer.

Doesn’t make the news any less horrible. It just makes it less terrifying, to some extent.

Ma’s visit was great. Did too much shopping and not enough sight-seeing. Ma gave us a gigantic new four-poster bed as a housewarming gift. It’s a monster, but it’s beautiful and comfortable. Big improvement over my hand-me-down bed and my 10+ year old mattress.

We’ve been slacking a bit on the housework in favor of doing more stuff about town. Went to a music festival this weekend. My New Orleans snobbery definitely shone through. The Forecastle Festival is supposed to be one of the biggest events in Louisville, but at least in my opinion this town has a lot to learn about throwing a music fest. Even the weeniest ones in New Orleans, the little neighborhood doo-dahs, is an Event.

If I had to put my finger on what was wrong with the Forecastle Festival it would be the lack of diversity. Two days of 12 hours of music, but all the same kinds of bands. Alt-rock, emo, punk, moody melancholy stuff. So the lack of diversity in music invited a lack of diversity in crowd. I felt straight-laced and mainstream in comparison. But the Fest also features 100 or so artists and dozens of activist groups. With the lack of diversity the activist groups were preaching to the choir and the artists weren’t making terribly many sales. What a missed opportunity, in my opinion. Open up another stage, feature some more universally appealing music, offer more food (one food booth!!), and bring the artists an audience that can afford their work and bring the activists an audience that needs to hear their message.

That’s just my opinion.

We’re walking distance to a comedy club and seeing that one of Jason’s clients owns a comedy club in NYC, it seemed natural to check it out. The headliner was a Columbia grad (much younger than me), Steve Hofsteader, but the show was really stolen by the second act—Stuart Huff. It was a good night, and for $10 more fun than a movie (not that I’ve seen a movie in, like, six months!).

Went to Cherokee Park, the grande dame of the Louisville (“City of Parks”) parks system. Designed by Olmstead, the park is more of a forest with paved paths. Gorgeous, hilly, a bit too hilly in this scorching heat! But it’s less than a mile from us, and in cooler weather will be a fantastic place to hike and picnic and just spend a day.

Otherwise, just your average checking out restaurants and bars and coffee shops. Dabbling with house stuff. I’m determined to get it fully functioning and straightened up by the time school starts. And that’s in TWO WEEKS!

Two weeks. Where has the time gone?