Update: contact, give thanks, dream monuments, sugarcane

Things should be winding down, now that it’s fall, but a frenzy of energy is picking up. I don’t know if it’s me or the universe in general. Despite the goings of the world and my own personal doubts, people have a way of showing kindness and good humor even in the hardest moments.


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This last few weeks have been filled with many new experiences. Last week, I tried contact improv, a free-moving dance form without many boundaries or choreography. I would describe it as modern ballet without structure, but it’s not quite that. You’re dancing with another person in a back and forth, flowing movement, as if balancing each other—pushing and pulling.

I also went to a poetry reading with bluesy jazz. In the past I read for other local poetry events, but since I was new to this one, I didn’t have any material that I felt was relevant, or that would go with the melodies of blues or jazz, the accompaniment of piano music, bass and drums, but I heard some powerful slam poetry, and a girl who usually sang, felt like rapping. Her voice was raspy. It was her birthday and she had requested another Hennessey shot from the bartender. Her voice and a guy playing the drums were in unison, as if they had practiced for hours, but most likely it flourished in the spur of a moment.


Earlier this month, I got to see what kind of monuments third graders at Homer A. Plessy Community School want to see in their city. I helped them craft short essays on their favorite historical figures, places and things. It’s amazing what kids will write about when you ask them the big questions, like who should be given a monument, those they admire and deserve to be remembered. This Big Class in-school project allowed kids to come up with thought-provoking writing to convince readers on why their monument ideas are the best, and it gave them the chance to read in front of an audience once it was published as a book. Aptly titled, Courageous, Eccentric, Diverse: New Monuments for New Orleans, the book shows the different symbols, people and objects students picked as monuments, including, Solomon Northup, pelicans, beignets, Ruby Bridges and more. Proceeds from book sales will go to funding Big Class’s new youth writing center, which will be the first 826 National chapter in the South.


I’m not one to make a fuss about the holidays, especially as it pertains to the shopping spree that ensues as an excuse for consumerism. Also, celebrating thanksgiving is detached from history, since most people don’t think about what it means for Native Americans that have suffered since pilgrims made contact and colonized their lands. I do see the good intention in giving thanks and the opportunity to gather with family and friends to enjoy a descent plate of food, and be cheery in unison. For “give thanks day,” I visited Thibodaux with my partner to have lunch with his family. It was farther south, almost heading to Isle de Jean Charles. On the way we passed Raceland, and the frequent sugarcane fields lining up on side of the road and expanding outward—some of it tall and ready for plucking. Getting closer to Thibodaux, we saw trucks carrying loads of sugarcane to be processed at refineries visible from the car. These faded white factories with long chimneys threw out steam and smells, like molasses burning. Later, I saw the distinct Southern oak trees with moss hanging. They are not as robust as the ones in New Orleans. They are smaller and quaint, and usually standing next to distant white and reddish houses that seem to have less permanence than the trees. I wanted to get out of the car and take a photo, but we were moving fast. They reminded me of old paintings of the south I had seen in NOMA. I spent time with my partner’s relatives, talking to his dad and getting to know about their family history and feeling happy being in warm company. We had some yummy southern food: mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, gumbo, collard greens and more. There was also turkey, so I said goodbye to my vegetarian (sometimes pescatarian) routine that I had been keeping for the last couple of weeks. But it was worth it—you only eat turkey once a year.


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