Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hooray! 'Slutwear' Is So Last Year on New York Runways

Hooray! This story is a couple of weeks old, but it gave me great cheer. Slutwear is on its way out. I'm looking forward to being able to take my 8 year-old daughter shopping again without having to fight to keep the hoochie clothes out of the cart. No more hoochie slutwear received as gifts. I'm looking forward to seeing Rachel draw pictures of little girls who are not wearing low-slung pants or skirts and high-cut mid-drifts and prostitute shoes.

(Fashion Show Barbie, Mattel)

Adults can wear anything they want. I've never had issues with anything anyone does. Ever. But I hate having provocative adult styles pushed on little girls. Anything novel to make a buck. Let's dress 'em up like little sluts. Calvin Klein and Aberchrombie & Fitch manufactured and sold thong underwear for little girls!

If this sounds extreme to you, imagine how you might feel when it's your own little girl. Well, if the trend's on the way out, maybe you'll never have to.

Okay, since I'm in the rant-mode now, let's talk about the Disney Channel. It disgusts me to see the way appearance is valued over substance in most of the Disney shows. (Try sitting through a couple of hours of Disney Channel programming, particularly anything starring Hillary Duff.) My daughter Rachel spends a lot of time in front of the mirror agonizing over wardrobe decisions like it's all of some great consequence, just like the Disney girls do. Echhh! I've had to ban the Disney Channel in this house, with all its shallow female stereotypes.

Actually, nothing says it better than Barbie. Mattel describes Barbie as follows:
More than a doll.
From fashion selection to vintage collection, she's everything.
From urban teen to fantasy queen, she's every girl.
From surf and sand to fairyland, she's everywhere.
With more than $3.6 billion at retail, Barbie's the #1 girl's brand worldwide.
For every girl. From every world.
Yeah. They have Third World Barbie, too. She doesn't have a name, but she's a Masai from Kenya. She's from the 1990s. Rachel has one that looks like an updated Masai and her name is Nykisha or something like that. She looks a little wealthier and has gold lame flat-soled sandals and gold bracelets, anklets and neck rings.

And they've got a Barbie for almost any lifestyle, even Harley Davidson Barbie.

Mattel hast ruly taken Barbie to new levels. No, it's not Off-Duty Dominatrix Barbie. Allow me to introduce Mattel's Cool Looks Trendy, Bendy Barbie...

...and her "My Scene" friend, Madison, complete with accessories.

Meet Barbie's friend, Nolee, two versions.

They like to shop together when they're not out turning tricks.

Yep, Slutwear is alive and well, at Mattel. I think I'm going to buy a bunch of these dolls and make a movie.

Now, if you really want a pathetic laugh, check out Barbie's blog. You won't have to go do the Disney Channel thing after this. It all sounds the same.

What's much funnier is to check out Barbie's life in the 'hood. It's not as funny as the Barbie Animated Kama Sutra, which disappeared from the web several years ago, to my great sadness. Nothing made me howl in laughter like that did, mostly because you had to wait for dozens of little scenes with Barbie and Ken dolls in their various positions to load, and they were funny enough. But as soon as they all loaded, they'd simultaneously start movin'. Doin' it. Gettin' it on. It was absolutely hilarious and just thinking about it has me cracking up. Oh, how I long for the site to slip back in under Mattel's nose.

Oh, yeah. Barbie in the Hood. While on her blog page, click "Flava" from the scrolling links at the top. Or, you can click here. Once you get there, you can join her crew (funny, there's not a sista in the bunch, and only one brotha), and her homeys will give you a "flava name" if ya want. My choices were Diamond L, L Light, (Renard will like that one...inside joke), or Pinky Boo. This site is beyond belief. There is not a single urban cliche or stereotype (that they could get away with on a toy site) missing here.

Her are some other possibilities for the Barbie line.

Dare we wonder why other countries have the opinions of American culture that they do???
Dare we????

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

So Many Political Irks, So Little Time

NPR : Iraq Intelligence

Cherry-picking intelligence to suit one's agenda is a very unbecomming trait for a president. Just one more to add to the long list. (Link to audio story above.)

And it's not the only thing he's been caught picking.

Selective Powers of Observation (in Multiples of 4)

I live in a house with 12 foot ceilings. The top edges of the doors are 8 feet high. I have a 16 year-old son who somehow neglects to notice notes I leave for him written in bold black marker on full-sized sheets of paper placed in places he must step, like the landing on the way down the stairs from his bedroom. Yet, this very same boy spotted a bug with a body less than a centimeter long (albeit orange) on the dusty top edge of my bedroom door, 8 feet above floor, which is more than 2 feet above his head, (which is at least a factor of 4, if not a multiple.)

Allow me to introduce him. Meet The Assassin. He's waving hello.

He most probably rode into town on one of the plants I dragged in from the balcony in anticipation of huricane Ivan.
I swept him into a casette tape case and took him outside to photograph.

It was challenging. I put him in a box of glossy inkjet paper and he was a fast mover. He tried to escape many times. (He's still wearing some of my house dust.)

I did manage to get one decent shot of him while he was in the box. But i was so limited in terms of angles and he was so fast that I returned to my encased portraiture approach. His hairy legs hold my house dust pretty well.

I think he's perfect for a starring role in a cartoon. He's got so much character when he's up on those threaddy rear legs with forward legs waving like arms, giving us a full, frontal view of that proboscis and those serious, wide-set eyes. He's rather adorable in this stance, though I find him somewhat disgusting in his profile portrait with his nasty, roach-colored vestigial wings seen in relief on his back.

He was not happy about his confinement in the tape case. Rachel claimed to hear a tiny, barely audible voice cry, "Help! Get me outta here!" as I was taking this photo.

I spent way too much time online trying to identify him and after much effort, I succeeded. Meet the Thread-legged Assassin Bug. His happy face is a nice departure from the heaviness of the last posts. And my son will never be able to get away with missing one of my notes again.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Relationships Are Not For Sissies.

(This one is long. Sorry. But you know how it is when stuff just has to come pouring out...)
Relationships are not for sissies. It's not always a smooth flight. Too much turbulence can knock you unconscious, if it doesn't cause a fatal crash. And it was a close call, but I'm still alive.

Yesterday marked 2 years and 9 months since Renard and I went from being just friends to "more." For a while, I thought it might mark the end.

SIDE NOTE: Why isn't there a decent word -just one word -that describes a solid, long-term relationship between two unmarried people?? "Boyfriend/girlfriend" sounds like high school. "Couple" is so generic that it could mean almost anything in terms of the nature of the relationship. "Partner" has become the term of choice for same sex couples, so, in the absence of any well defined gender indicators, the term would be misleading when used to describe opposite sex couples. ("Pat and Chris have been partners for 2 years now.") And it's not necessarily any more indicative of the seriousness of the relationship than "couple" is. I have no plans to get married again. Does this mean I will be relegated to the use of "boyfriend" to describe someone with whom I may spend the rest of my (unmarried) life? Can anyone out there come up with something better??


The Little Tiger dream had symbolism on more than one level. Obviously, there is a relationship issue here. I'll see if I can pull it all together in a minute, but first some background.

Renard and I have known each other for more than 20 years. We had a number of the same friends and moved in and out of the same circles from time to time. Our friendship didn't develop any real substance until about 9 months before our relationship began. He said he'd been "planting seeds" and the ground may have been watered at my 39th birthday party when he was the only one who indulged my birthday wish by playing guitar with me. I had such fun and knew I was very fond of him, but never considered him a potential boyfriend, not that there was any reason I wouldn't, but it just never occurred to me.

The friendship continued to develop over the next three months and during the conversations of that period, I spoke candidly about many things, among them, the relationship with my daughter's dad. I didn't have any reason to be less than honest about my feelings and I told the whole truth. And that truth was that we experienced an extraordinary love, one the likes of which I had never experienced before. But the relationship was very complicated. There were circumstances that made it virtually impossible for us to live in that love in a real way, for the long haul. So, love was never an issue. But fear condemned the relationship to a long and extremely painful death and while in its throes, I longed for the man I loved in my heart, and this, I though, would surely kill me.

I wanted to be with him. He was the ONE. How could there be anyone else? How would I ever go on, knowing that I had found him and lost him? I worked hard, hard, hard to get through that death I felt in that and be reborn with love still inside me and the lessons learned held close to my heart. If there is anything I will never forsake, it's love. In the end, I realized that it was not the person that I wanted. It was the experience of love that I wanted. And that meant that the right person was any person with whom I could have that experience. I wasn't looking for Mr. Right. I was looking for Experience Right. That meant the door to love was open again and I had every reason to believe that, having experienced it once (as imperfect as conditions were), I could experience it again.

I told Renard all of this before we were together. That might not have been so bad. The huge mistake was reiterating my desire for this kind of experience when I wasn't feeling us moving towards it in our relationship. It made him feel as if he was in competition with the Ghost of Love Past and he was losing.

This might have been enough to cause some tension, and God bless him, he tried to suppress the feeling that he could never live up to this love experience that had never been a part of his own frame of reference. Now, to complicate it more, lets add our personalities.

We are so wonderful together in so, so, so many ways. But there are some fundamental differences in the two of us. He crafted a great analogy for it: I'm a roaring 8-cylinder engine and he's a quiet 4 cylinder. When we come to the stoplight, he can sit quietly and wait for the light to change. But my 8 cylinder engine, even at idle, is so charged with energy that the breaks are straining to hold me back. I want to fly. And as soon as the light changes, I'm off with this great energy, passion and enthusiasm and all my resources are engaged in my pursuits. I have to explore every road. I don't want to miss anything. And he's just cruising along, smooth and easy, not too fast, happy with the sights on the main road, happy to pull over and rest a while in the quiet. He's never worried about missing anything. He's got a map and a plan and he's chosen his route and is happy with it.

Now, lets complicate this a little more. I tend to be naturally happy almost always, but I am very sensitive, especially when it comes to disapproval. (There's a lot of psychology behind this and understanding it hasn't made overcoming it an easy task.) Renard has a tendency to be moody and when unhappy, he often misdirects his discontentment toward something (or someone) other than its true source. (Or at its source and anything else that might prickle the already sensitive skin.) Given my 8 cylinder nature to his 4, it's understandable why my nature might provoke his ire when he's feeling afflicted. And, in the absence of my understanding the true source of this ire when it's directed at things that are fundamentally just part of who and what I am, things that seemed okay before, I get my feelings hurt. HURT. I feel unloved. UNLOVED. And unlovable. And then the real fun starts.

This last 10 days or so have been very turbulent. But the little tiger dream makes perfect sense now. I'm me and I'm the little tiger. And Renard is also me. The little tiger is becoming unlovable, even though she didn't change. All that changed was the perception of what was already there. And it happened as the result of something external to the relationship. So, Tiger Lisa has to change or we have to get rid of her. But Tiger Lisa doesn't know how to be anything but herself. The tiger's little bites might also symbolize my desire to have a kind of love that Renard hasn't experienced and thinks he may not be able to deliver. It's not in his consciousness until I put it there (because I'm not feeling loved) and then he's aware of how it hurts. Vicious cycle.

Still with me? God bless you!

The story has a happy ending because there is no ending. I really thought that this relationship was about to crash, despite it being so wonderful in so many ways. Thank God we landed safely. I think Renard just needed to know how real and powerful my love for him is and that there are no Ghosts haunting the hallways. And I needed to know that this 8 cylinder may be challenging for a 4 cylinder at times, but she and the love she brings with her are worth it.

And now we know.

If it's true that what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, then we should be able to weather the next storm like a rock.

(I like this little camera phone picture a lot and thought it woud be appropriate to run it again here.)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Little Tiger

Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
I had a dream a few nights ago that I had a baby tiger. It was my pet and it was just a cub, a precious little female cub. She was the most adorable little thing. I loved her and she loved me. There was no question of that. We played together, were constant companions and had great fun.

I loved my little tiger so much that I picked her up and told her that I wished she could talk. She looked at me and said, "I can talk!" as if the only thing I needed to do was create an opportunity for her to do so. She said she'd be my little tiger forever. I was happy.

We played and played and I never had any problems with my baby tiger. And oh, how I loved her. But then someone came to visit and asked me if I knew what I was doing, having this animal as a pet. Didn't I know what a tiger could do?

I expressed a lack of concern toward potential problems in the future. The visitor referred to some news story of the recent past where someone tried to keep a tiger as a pet and was mauled by it and said that's probably the way he felt, too.

After that, I became aware of the little tiger biting my hands the way a teething puppy does when we played. It didn't really hurt and I felt like the tiger had probably been doing this all along, and I didn't even notice. But now it had been pointed out to me as if I should do something about it. It nagged at me. I imagined those paws becoming heavy, swiping with claws extended.

So, the next time the little tiger played with me in her little tiger-like way, teeth and all, I chided her and said, "You can't keep doing things like this. If you do, I won't be able to keep you."

The little tiger looked innocently at me and said, "But I'm a tiger." That's just what she was and she couldn't be anything else but that.

That's the last thing that I remember, but I woke up from that dream, knowing so well what it meant. I'm amazed at how perfectly by mind constructed a dream to parallel the state of things in my life.

This tiger, has little, sharp teeth. She's so full of love and would harm no one. But some folks don't like those teeth. If you get in their way, you'll feel them. And maybe they could really hurt you, if that's what the tiger wanted. But she doesn't want that and they don't really hurt, but you do notice them. But she is just a little tiger and you can't deny that. It didn't bother you before, but now it does.

The little tiger loves you.
You love the little tiger.
What do you do?

Do you try to do something about those teeth?
Do you cut her claws?
Do you dye her fur so that she doesn't look like a tiger anymore?
Do you ask her not to make any tiger noises?
Do you try to get the tiger to change her nature?
Or do you get rid of her, because that's easier than accepting what she is?

I didn't realize until today that anonymous comments were turned off. That's been changed.

Thank You, All You Beautiful Friends!

Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
How so very lovely are your birthday wishes. I am touched, so I put together this bouquet for you.

I love this place and all the people who come here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, one and all!

Note: I have been playing around my template in attempt to understand (through trial and error) how CSS coding works and where HTML fits in to the scheme of things. The first success was figuring out how to insert my own links in the sidebar. Then I figured out how to change some colors, fonts and sizes. I figured out how to add my own artwork to the sidebar in the place I wanted it to go (my adulterated Bosch), and now, I've managed to link it to a slightly larger version so that you can appreciate some of the finer features, like Rumsfeld giving you the finger. Notice what some of the other hands are doing. I did exercise a great deal of restraint in this activity. Really I did. You have no idea how mad these guys have made me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

42 Down, ?? To Go (and don't call me "Ms. Lisa")

42nd Birthday photo
originally uploaded by LisaPal.
It happened on the 21st and I knew it was really true when I looked at my Blogger profile page and it no longer said I was 41.

How did this happen?

How is it that so much time has passed so quickly? I don't feel any different. I still feel like the same person I've always been, (just with a little more knowledge and wisdom), I even look pretty much the same (except for this wretched, soooo-not-me, short, and hopefully temporary Joan Baez-esque hair cut that I can't seem to get to grow out!!)--or maybe I even look better, as has been expressed by a bunch of people. I'm told I don't look my age, I look younger, though I have no idea what that really means because I think almost everyone looks younger than they are. Perception hasn't adjusted to reality, or vice versa.

Yet I get the impression that this numeric zone wherein my age resides means something to some (younger) people that it doesn't mean to me.

I've always maintained that age is relative. The number doesn't mean that much and I would argue that it has little to do with maturity, wisdom, or any other similar attribute.

In a recent e-mail exchange with someone younger, (someone who had innocently referred to me as Ms. Lisa, which has been a disturbing recurrence in the last two years!) I expounded a little on this subject. Her contention was that age (interpreted to mean maturity) was the ability to use reason over emotion. This implies that the former is superior to the latter, which is debatable in many circumstances. My response to her is excerpted below:

Age is one thing and it's not maturity. Maturity (in my opinion) is not measured by the capacity to use reason over emotion. I think it is shown in the ability to balance the inner with the outer sensibilities. It's understanding and coming to terms with who you are and what you truly value (which are emotional issues more than a rational ones), and then using reason to create the means to live from those values as an authentic being in the external world, complete with other people who may or may not understand you or share those values.

In my opinion, there's nothing meaningful in how many years I've been here. What's more meaningful is how long I've sought to live authentically, to truly know and understand myself and explore and experience every bright spot and dark corner of who I am, (and to love myself in spite of it), and to not simply accept the way things are as the only way they can be.

I've known so many people who've never stopped to ask themselves, "Is this the life I want to live?" Not much substance follows in a life that refuses to seek answers to the most basic questions. And for this reason, I know of people who have lived here longer than I have but seem much younger, and vice versa.

So there.

Now, to illustrate how faulty reason can be in the hands of the inept and inexperienced... when I was 16 or so, I declared that I wanted to die when I was 39 because I just couldn't see what point there would be in going beyond that. I'd surely have done everything (that I could think of at that time) worth doing and I'd probably have to resort to living the kind of "mechanical" life I saw my parents living. Oh, how clueless I was. I spent the entire year after my 39th birthday (which came just 10 days after 9-11) telling the universe that I didn't mean it. Life was beautiful. I had so much more to do. I really didn't mean it! I breathed a sigh of relief when my 40th came. I know I'm not even close to being through with what I came here to do.

Not even close.

Picture Commentary:
I celebrated my birthday on a lunch date with the one who birthed me. Notice that my mother (with fork in hand) had already scarfed a piece of my B-day cheesecake before I snapped the shot! She deserves it, though. After all, I am just the fruit of her labor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Mad Scrabble- Sunday's Post (late as usual)

Mad Scrabble
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
More than irked. Disgusted. Incomprehensibly sad.
The Scrabble board says...

In Louisiana, marriage is and has been defined in the statutes as a union between a man and a woman. Apparently, this was not comfort enough for the homophobes of the religious right. They had to wrap the definition in bullet-proof, teflon-coated, mile-thick lead shielding.

The state constitutional amendment prohibits judges and other officials from recognizing same sex marriages and civil unions sanctioned in other states. And because of the broad wording of the amendment, it may go beyond that, potentially disrupting private contracts. It could nullify the one truly progressive thing the City of New Orleans has done in recent years: the Domestic Partner Registry. The registry allows same sex couples to designate a partner to receive health insurance and retirement benefits from the city or from other employers who wish to offer the same benefits to all their employees, regardless of sexuak orientation.

The passing of this amendment made me so sad. And then I made the mistake of opening my mouth when my Bible thumping, born-again sister-in-law self-righteously proclaimed her support for it. A nasty and frustrating debate ensued.

"The bible says that marriage is a union between a man and a woman", she said.

"But this is not a religious matter! It's a state constitutional amendment!" I insisted.

When did we lose seperation of church and state?

My sister-in-law then went on to share her opinon that homosexuality was an unnecessary condition precipitated by some sort of childhood abuse, implying that it could be reversed, perhaps by repentance, though she did not elaborate. It is amoral. (And thus, it must be punished!)

The way I see it, if your religious institution doesn't believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry, then it should not perform same sex marriages, as it defines marriage. But when were talking about marriage in civil terms, it's nothing more than an agreement. You can't legislate love, anyway. Disallowing a civil union does not stop anyone from taking spiritual vows. (Nor does a civil marriage ensure the moral conduct of either party in a heterosexual union.) Allowing same sex civil unions (and marriage is just a word. it means whatever we decide it means, outside the legal stipulations) is a simple matter of protecting citizens from non-secular based biases.

And at the most basic level, if two people love each other and want to create a formalized union, what sweat is it off anyone else's back? What's in it for us if we stop it? Shouldn't we be more "pro-love" anyway? Besides, there are other ways to get around the system. And I guess that's ok, as long as we don't let people do it in a straightforward and honest fashion. (I have a gay male friend who is married to a gay female from another country; they both got what they needed, from a legal perspective.) Isn't all this rediculous?

Really, the thing that bugs me the most is to hear people call themselves Christian and act so unlovingly. Isn't that what Jesus was all about? Love? Did he pass moral judgment on anyone? Ask Mary Magdaline. I kept thinking about all the people with the WWJD (what would Jesus do?) paraphernalia and how I'd like to ask them the question.

Imagine running into Jesus on the way to the polls. "Hey Jesus, you voting for that amendment?" Now, imagine hearing Jesus respond as a homophobe. I'd write the hypothetical response here, but I'm afrain the RR Gustapo would find me and kill me, and I still have two kids to raise.

Where, where, where is the LOVE?

Come on, people!

Post Script- By the time it was over, my boyfriend was irked with me for my aggressive behavior in the debate.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Better Than That

Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Kids are asleep and I'm alone this Saturday night. I had pictures ready to post. I had topics to address. I'd been thinking about all of it. (And when I do, I find that I now think in "blog prose" instead of just ideas with no form or sentence structure. Now, there is a narrator who steps in and writes the thing in my head.) Anyway, I was all ready and then something brought me downstairs to my poor, neglected project studio where I endeavored to tighten up a not-too-bad song I'd thrown together last weekend when I had a couple of hours alone. I ventured into that task just the littlest bit and then something better happened.

I discovered my piano again. I turned off all the lights and sat there with my eyes closed. I put my hands on the keys and I stopped thinking. My fingers did things that sounded beautiful. Some things were incredibly simple and abstract, others were complex. There were combinations of sounds so strikingly beautiful in their simplicity. The rich tone of the piano flowed through me. The sustained resonance of one single note was enough to make my heart feel as if it would burst through my chest. I didn't interfere.

I continued to let my fingers move across the keys as they wished and I listened to what they did. At one point, I heard Antonio Carlos Jobim. Magnificent Jobim. Perhaps my most beloved modern composer. My fingers were not perfect in their execution, but they were playing things they had never played before. I just let them go.

Before long, I felt a fire in the center of my chest, followed by hot tears streaking down my face. I didn't really understand them, nor did I try. I just felt in them a sweet, sweet kind of pain, as if something had been set free, something that had been unjustly locked away, having committed no crimes but was banished anyway. It was one of my many pieces of banished self. It knew the sorrow of being forgotten and the joy of being remembered and I felt both at once.

I sat there in the dark for over an hour and I just let whatever was inside come out in the sweet sounds of hammered strings. More Jobim. More sweet pain, for it's hard to detach his music from a certain time in my life where I came to know love in its most pure form, and while lost in the ecstasy of it, didn't notice that I was being wrapped in the razor wire of all that is not love in the world. I made it out alive but I nearly bled to death and I still bear scars and occasionally discover wounds that I believed were healed.

The last thing I found myself playing (and I never would have pulled this one from my conscious mind) was "Where Is Love," a song I barely know but heard covered many years ago. I had to look it up to discover that it was from the play, "Oliver," with which I am completely unfamiliar. Generally, when things happen this way, it's my "higher mind" trying to tell me something. I'm pretty sure I know what it is. I just haven't wanted to look at it.

I will look no closer tonight. I haven't made it to bed before 6:00 AM in days. If I stop now, I can get to bed before 5:00 AM, which means I might get as many as 5 hours sleep without interruption. Yippee! And goodnight.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Signs of Life?

Dull and gray. I look at my posts and I see more gray than the dry clouds that Ivan spread across the sky two days ago. I don't see life, as I know it. Something pushes me forward and holds me back at the same time. Approach-avoidance.

I came to the land of the blogs with a secret mission and immediately abandoned it. I was supposed to become unrestrained here. But because I didn't hide my identity, I've just been hiding behind whatever I think that identity is supposed to mean. Not that what you've seen isn't real. It's just that I've dared to go about a layer or so deeper than the piece of life "found" in the previous post. I've been away from certain parts of myself for so long that I can't seem to remember how to navigate the terrain.

I feel like I have been holding back, carefully crafting my thoughts and words, sidestepping things that matter to me, that hurt me, that move me, and polishing other ideas to make them gleam acceptably. As I typed the previous sentence, it suddenly struck me. It's an ongoing theme. I see it again and again, and it brings me great sorrow, brings the world great sorrow every day. It holds me back from you, whoever you are. I've learned its truth so well that I dare not invite it by being wrecklessly free.

Judgment Kills Beauty.

I know this. I've seen such beautiful things killed by the hands of judgment. (I'll write more about this in another post.) I've seen parts of myself killed by it. Without realizing it, I've embraced that lesson and carefully doled out only that which I felt would not provoke Judgment to draw his sword. And in doing so, I now realize that I simply took the sword from his hand and turned it on myself.

I was inspired to enter this blog-world by my friend's own irreverent and often brutal self-inspection-put-on-display and I love him all the more for his bravery in taking the chance of being loved less for his revelations. (This is how it should be, say I!) I explored other lives revealed out here and found more inspiration, great inspiration from a young woman who reminded me of so many things I needed to remember about what it means to be alive, truly alive, painfully alive, and the struggle to stay that way. She is in some ways me and in many ways, so much more than I am. I'm truly humbled and also ashamed of my own cowardice, of allowing so much of myself to slip away, of forgetting who I am and of failing to love myself completely, without condition.

Unconditional love fills every space, so there is no place for Judgment. It cannot exist where unconditional love resides. How wonderful would this world be if we all gave what we most wanted to receive?

I haven't expressed this before, but I have thought it and said it to myself so many times. There are a handful of us who read each others blogs and sometimes comment. We seem to be pretty loyal, which I interpret to mean we care about each other, for whatever reason. And the reason doesn't really matter. It's just remarkable. It's a microcosmic slice of humanity at its best. It means something.

Thanks to you all for moving me so.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I Found Some Of Your Life

I Found Some Of Your Life
Hats off to the man with Words of Ether who found this blog based on the contents of the lost memory card from a digital camera found in a NYC taxi.

I bought a used digital camera on eBay once which had a few shots left on the card, but none were of people, so no real fodder for creative storytelling. The person who found this hit the motherlode.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

High and Dry

Greetings from Ivan's western feeder bands. And honestly, the land is low and no one here is high, but we are all dry.

All the preparations have been done. I did all I could to protect the house, which isn't much, really. I did lots to protect my stuff inside.

For some reason, Renard thinks my window-boarding job has some kind of artistic merit. Something about the position of the crossboard and my nail placement, which you can't see. He can be rather critical when it comes to art, so this kind of left-field pronouncement about a crappy piece of paneling nailed to a window in the most utilitarian way is terribly amusing to me. I'm very inclined to see great beauty in the (so called) ugly (which is a term I really don't believe in) and ordinary, but this? (And he was not joking!) I guess some people find symmetry beautiful, but I prefer the skewed.

It's really been bone-dry all day and up until now, the wind has been just perfect for my pleasure sensibilities. Actually, it's been a little on the milder side of my preference range, but things are picking up.

I couldn't stand being inside with such glorious wind blowing, so Renard and I took a walk on the Mississippi River levee late this afternoon. The river is about 10 blocks from my house and only one block from his studio. There were only a few other people out enjoying the natural drama. Some were trying to fly kites, but the wind would gust and then it would be dead-still. The river was eerily calm. Eventually, the levee police announced a 6:00PM curfew, so we split.

I took the following photograph while on our walk. I wanted to capture the wind, somehow, which can be challenging in a still photo. The willows that line the banks of the river offered the best opportunity. I didn't cut the size of the picture too much because I thought it was pretty.

Obviously, we still have power, but we know that there are some outages nearby. The wind is blowing harder and it sounds like aircraft roaring overhead. Still no rain to speak of.

The close-call storms have been anticlimactic in recent years and I guess that is good. There are lots of people in my neighborhood who have chosen to stay. We all give the same kinds of reasons. Mine: my house is over 100 years old and has made it through dozens of terrible storms. While that statement is entirely true, I do realize that the now enormous oak tree that sits beside my house was probably little more than a sapling through some of the worst of those. If it were to fall, it would most likely hit the house across the street from mine...but its roots might also pry my house up like a lever and flip it on its side or crack it in half. I worry about this sometimes, but I have felt some serious gusts hit and the tree seems as solid as it could be.

Well,the lights just flickered and I heard a transformer explode somewhere not too far from here. I'd better go ahead and post in case I lose power soon.

I think we'll survive this one and I pray that all our friends to the east do as well. That's all for now, folks...

If It's Ivan, It's Trouble

Zaytuni will know that the title to this post is a double entendre, as the last Ivan that I had to deal with wrought quite a bit of havoc in my life. Twenty years later and this one is trouble, too. Just a different kind. And like the last one, dealing with this one has wrung me out. (I'll have to tell the story of the first one someday. Zaytuni mentions him briefly in his blog on March 28th.)

So, Ivan has been a lot of trouble today. Lots to do to get ready for him. He may not make it here, but if he does, well...please indulge me the following geography lesson:

New Orleans. The Crescent City. Imagine a bowl filled with marbles set to float in a larger pool of water. Keep adding marbles until the rim of the bowl is barely above the water's surface. (You can use the ones that those of us living here have lost. There are plenty.) Now, get a leaf blower, point it at the water near the edge of the bowl and let it blow. Oh... I forgot. Do this outside in a good, hard rain.

Congratulations. You now understand what Ivan's visit means to us. If it were still a Category Five, you could just flush the bowl of marbles down the toilet.

During my obsessive nocturnal Weather Channel viewing marathon last night, I dug up a few visuals.

The pink and green lines indicate the Metro New Orleans area, divided as the east and west banks of the Mississippi, respectively. When I see these satellite images, the reality of our precarious situation strikes me all the more.

Most of the city is somewhere between 5 and 10 feet below sea level, and sinking fast. The elevation map below illustrates the bowl-like nature of the city very well.

A good Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching from the direction of the mouth of the river could push a 20 to 40 foot surge of water (the "storm surge") up into the delta and surrounding estuaries, which we seriously refer to as a coastline, despite there being little of anything that you could call coast or line. The levees and floodgates protecting the city from Lake Pontchartrain are 15 feet high. The Mississippi River's levees are 20 feet high. You can see what kind of problem this poses. I just found this USA Today article from the 2000 hurricane season and after reading it, I'm feeling a little uneasy again. Here's another really good article on the geography and hydro-geology (I think I may have made that word up) of the city.

I have to admit that, for the most part, I like hurricanes. I love, love, love wind. I've only experienced a couple of direct hits (but one of them was not in N.O. and neither was higher than a Category 3) , but I've experienced the effects of many hurricanes that hit nearby. We've never really suffered any horrible consequences; only the inconvenience of no electricity (which means no air conditioning), minor flooding, and some tree debris to clean up. On one such occasion a couple of years ago, my daughter Rachel (who I guess was about 6 years old then) and I had great fun playing in the rainwater that gushed off the front balcony and blew onto the front porch. I think it flooded that time, too, but it was all pumped clear before the next day.

This hurricane has been difficult to predict and the city officials and meteorologists have been concerned that it was too close to call. They all said we should leave. As many of the million or so residents of the Metro area as could, should. My mother, the perennial worrier, heeded that advice immediately and headed west with my kids to my sister's place in Lafayette. I stayed to prepare my house for the storm, expecting to leave this afternoon with Renard (my boyfriend), who was also busy getting his studio ready.

All along I've been torn between staying and leaving if it looked like it was going to be a near miss. The decision was made for me this afternoon when neither Renard nor I were anywhere near ready to go and, even if we had been, every road out of here was absolutely gridlocked by the mass exodus.

So, it 1:30 AM now. I've got boards on the only windows that I felt needed them (and because I only had two boards anyway.) The things that might fly away are secured. All the plants (and there are LOTS) are off the balcony and in my bedroom, along with all their resident insects, one of which was the biggest spider I've ever seen. I swapped him for a small lizard I found outside. I hope he fares well and that his replacement eats some of these small, hop-and-fly bugs that seem to like the atmosphere around my bed. All my most cherished photographs, vital documents and computer equipment are in plastic bags, except for the things I'll take if I decide to flee. Renard is finally here with his clothing, some food, his instruments that are not insured, and his vintage Strat, which is irreplaceable. I'll take my favorite acoustic and his Fender bass.

Tomorrow morning we'll decide whether we stay or go. Tonight we'll enjoy the calm before the storm and ponder whether or not hurricane sex is worth the risk, if Ivan decides to stay in the left lane.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Politics, As Usual

On September 11th, I wrote a long essay but didn't get a chance to post it. After I read it, I decided it was just too much. So, I decided to publish only the last paragraph. It sums it up pretty well for me. Here it is.

I'm troubled by the fact that we don't seem to be learning our lessons as well as we should be. I'm troubled by the feeling that my government's motives are not as admirable as it would like me to believe. I'm troubled by the greed, pride, egotism, narcissism, arrogance and shortsightedness that still seem to drive the decision makers. And I'm troubled because it's three years later, and it doesn't seem like anything has changed. Where is the lesson learned?

How sad. What an honor to the fallen.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Chancellor's Socks

The Chancellor's Socks
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Today, the University of New Orleans (my employer) inaugurated its 5th Chancellor, Dr. Tim Ryan. He was my boss's boss when he was Dean of the College of Business Administration and now he's the boss of all bosses.

In honor of this momentous occasion, (and because I've been inclined to read more than to write), I give you this photograph of our fearless leader's groovy socks, which I snapped when I happened upon him at the opening of UNO's Ogden Museum of Southern Art (a Smithsonian Affiliate) last year.

I could interpret these socks in more than one way, (ever seen the men's clothing in a Talbot's catalog circa 1980?), but regardless, I think his spunky, funky choice bodes well for my beloved university.

Here's to you, Tim! Long may you ride!


Originally uploaded by LisaPal.

Tiny clusters of flowers. Sparce on the bush this summer. Small and sparce and hardly noticable in all the greenery. Insignificant.

How much beauty do we miss because we don't bother to really look? Because from afar, there doesn't seem to be anything beyond ordinary, at best? I almost cut this spindly bush down this summer, since it smothered the rosemary and defiantly refused to produce more than a half-dozen less-than-full flower clusters at a time.

I have a new love for it now.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It's a Matter of Will...No Ifs, Ands, or Buts About It

It's almost like the last 3 & 1/2 years didn't happen. (The Title of this blog entry is a link to an article, so click!)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Sunlight and Water

Water Diamond
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Who needs carbon to make a diamond?

I still don't feel like writing because if I do, I think I'll end up ranting instead.

Presidential Election Politics are a HUGE irk for me.

Really, this presidency has been a huge irk for me.

Actually, to say it's an irk is a huge understatement. I hear people making decisions and saying things that do not conform to any kind of logic that I understand —and I would like to understand, although I doubt I could excuse, justify or forget the many things I'd have to in order to do that.

Maybe I'll perform a logical analysis later. (I actually started and got so knotted up that I had to stop so that I might preserve any possibility of enjoying the pretty days we've been having.)

For now, I think I'll keep my focus on the beauty that's all around me and enjoy what I and my camera can do with it.


Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
I haven't felt like writing. The things on my mind are too big compared to my small will.

But have become rather obsessed with photographing whithered flowers and water droplets, so expect more. (The droplets have been amazing!)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Circuit City "Artified"

Circuit City "Artified"
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
The innards of digital devices are like miniture cities. When my portable CD player broke, I decided to do some aerial photography with a little artistic embellishment applied for interest.

This is another Labor Day back yard photo. ('Cause I was outside when I took it.)

If you click on any of the recent photos, you can see the larger versions on Flicker.

How I Spent My Labor Day Afternoon

Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
In the backyard with the camera.

This picture is (obviously) of thegarden hose in action. And, (obviously) I did not use the camera in my cell phone for this one.

I will be posting some more of these pictures as the week progresses.

Saturday, September 04, 2004


A Picture Share!
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Some people think it's very strange that I even noticed this much less, that I photographed it...

Wouldn't it be neat if I drove a racecar, too.

Does it mean anything?

Does it mean anything that one of the anagrams of my name is "opium's a ball!"

Or "I'm a soap bull?"

Or "Malibu Opals?"

Does it mean anything that someone at The Defense Information Systems Agency of the U.S.Department of Defense did a Google search on my name and then perused my Audible Vision website, and has since returned?

Does it mean anything that even I'm losing interest?

Rachel Finally Gave Up

A Picture Share!
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
I never did get around to making necklaces with her. Shame on me!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Something Happened

This is not me. Feeling lost. Uninspired. Solemn. Immobilized. Desiring isolated introspection for this unusually gloomy self, and finding the only acceptable company in these pages.

Down the hall, I hear my 16 year old son who does not know how to play, playing around with my electric guitar. I gave him a small amp and now I can hear him trying to imitate things he heard me do and to pick out melodies. He's "soloing" and it sounds strangely appealing. Not appalling. Now he's playing it like a bass. Maybe I should give him my bass to play.

My daughter pops up here every 10 minutes to implore me to do something with her. I can think of things we might do, but I cannot find the will to do them. She deserves better. It's not in me right now.

Renard is playing tonight. I don't want to go. I'll stay home. I'll think about working on songs and I'll tell myself I'll do it after Rachel goes to sleep. I probably won't.

Rache's back again. She wants me to make bracelets and necklaces with her. I don't want to go through the motions. What else can I do? She's so adorable. Maybe she can charm me back to life.

Something happened last weekend and I'm not the same. Probably temporary. I hope so.

Maybe my illusions of intimacy were shattered by the conditions set upon them— by conditions that have been there all along, but that I hoped would disappear eventually. Wishful thinking.

Who cares about real intimacy?

My mother was married to my father for almost 56 years when he died last year. He knew just about everything there was to know about her, but never really knew her. Well, he surely didn't know the most important things about her. This was the source of an ache in her heart that she tried to cure the only way she knew how until she finally gave up. Well, maybe she didn't give up altogether. I'm interested. I want to know her and she's been sharing the beauty that she is with me little by little.

Knowing about a woman is not the same as really knowing her.

Can anyone ever really know us at all? Do we dare reveal the things about ourselves that we believe to be too ugly for the light of day, or too beautiful, for that matter? I find the most beauty in flaws revealed. In the unglamorous weaknesses that are undisguised and undenied. In the naturalness of who we are as human beings struggling to find our way home. It's easier to accept these things if we remember our connections to each other and where home is. It almost impossible if we don't really believe such a place exists. I don't like to resort to trying to define home, but if I must, I'll call it The Ultimate Ground of Being.

I think it was the reminder of the need to censor my thoughts, to stifle my spontaneity and to hold back the 99% of what makes me tick that is of no interest to the one who claims to have interest in me. That's what did me in. There is a long list of taboo subjects and I accept that. But I hate having to pretend that large parts of myself don't exist or are not worth knowing.

Maybe the better question is, do people really want to know each other in that way? Does anyone really care about anyone else on that level?

Blogs may be the unfulfilled narcissist's great portal to pseudo intimacy. Despite the fact that it may be ugly, we all are narcissists to some degree. Just an unfortunate condition of riding around the planet in a human body with an ego. (They come as a pair.) Does this form of pseudo-intimacy still work if nobody reads what you write?

I suppose time will tell.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Mr. Oliver, Enter Stage Left— The Story Continues

Mr. Oliver and his pivotal role in the watershed of my creative life begins in South Beach, Miami, Florida in August 1992

I, the shadow artist, am on my annual pilgrimage to South Florida to visit one of my most beloved friends, Richard. It had become my custom to head down there a few days before he returned to Boca Raton from his annual trip to Philadelphia to visit his family. I'd spend those days visiting other Miami friends. In 1992, my friend Janice accompanied me on that first leg.

One afternoon, Janice told me that a friend of hers was also in Miami and said she'd like to visit him. He was the boyfriend of a mutual friend in New Orleans and I'm not sure why he happened to be hanging out solo in South Beach at that time, not that it matters.

We met David at a coffee shop and through conversational twists and turns that I don't recall, we landed on the fact that he and I had both just written short stories about girls named Heather. He gave me his chapbook called The Zuzu Wagon Review wherein his Heather story could be read along with his alter ego's poetry and the poems of a few others as well. His Heather sounded like my Heather after about 10 more years of life experience. A later edition of the Zuzu Wagon began with my Heather story and ended with his. Very appropriate.

Anyway, David told us about a spot nearby where he had been sitting in on guitar with another guy who was playing. All I remember was that they were doing some Dylan song, I think, and it needed harmony. The rest is a blur. I'm sure I was singing the harmony to myself as I sat and listened. I do this kind of thing all the time, even if the song wasn't written with harmonies. I can't remember if I actually got up and sung with them. I think I did. Or did I just talk about it. It probably started with that, but at some point, I joined the two musicians and sang harmony.

David sitting-in, South Beach, August 1992.

At some point that afternoon, David suggested we get together once back in New Orleans. He wanted to check out some of the things I'd written and thought it would be fun to play around with some music. The first time we got together, I guess he noticed how inhibited I was when it came to singing, even in the privacy of my own home. He said he knew what to do. And he did. But how did he know?

The next time he came over, he showed up with an amp and microphone. "Try this," he said, as he set it up for me to sing through. There was something about hearing my voice come out of this speaker more so than from my own body that made me feel more comfortable with the idea of singing around him. Maybe the speaker is like a proxy and makes it feel less intimate for me.

It's really hard to explain why I feel so uncomfortable when I sing out loud in front of others. I think about this a lot. I know I have my old baggage from the singer in my brother's band and that is perhaps a small part. But I think the larger part comes from my dad and his admonishments about showing off. I have been struggling for a long time to find words to express the core feeling that fuels my inhibitions and what I'm about to say may sound strange, but I think I may have found the way to say it. I think some part of me thinks that it's pretentious to have this voice I have. And that if I sing "for real" it will seem that way. Those are Daddy's words I'm still hearing, I guess. I feel embarrassed when I sing in an intimate situation (no mics, amps and speakers) unless I'm in the company of certain close friends and family. I'll hold back, way back. But put me on a stage with all the proxy equipment and put me on the spot and I will not hold back at all. This is not to say that I am not a wreck inside. Renard still laughs about a jazz gig he attended where I didn't take the stage until after the band did a few instrumentals and I told him I thought I was going to drop dead before my turn came up.

Scrutiny, judgment, and all the things they produce do a real number on me. But David knew how to take me slowly through the process of becoming more comfortable. And, as Renard reminds me, something inside me had to have wanted to perform in order to have followed where David led me. And eventually that road led to gigs at a bar in Hammond, Louisiana (David was teaching at the university located there) and at the Maple Leaf, a live music venue here in New Orleans.

The show was called The Zuzu Wagon Review. (I don't feel like explaining the meaning of the zuzu wagon right now but maybe David will share the meaning of this colloquialism as a comment.) It was a combination of poetry and fiction readings (our own and those of a variety of guests) and music. We'd do our music and literary readings and then invite the audience to participate in an open mic session afterwards. It was a very non-threatening environment for me and I felt comfortable enough to stretch out into things I wouldn't ordinarily do.

For example, I'd always wanted to do the Beatles' Taxman with this skanky funk-groove I liked to play on the drums. So, we did it. I played the drums and David sang it. I'd play guitar some of the time, keyboards some of the time and I think I even played bass (or tried to) on something. I'd been writing some music and we played some of those songs, sometimes to accompany the readings. David played guitar when I read or triggered some of the songs I'd recorded to Midi on my synth that were written specifically for parts of a story. We did songs I wrote as sort of a joke. (One was called "Bardo State" — from the Tibetan Book of the Dead —and I think David references it in one of his blog entries.) We did whatever we wanted to and people seemed to like it. We had people coming back to see us week after week. It was amazing. It was a blast. It was the most liberating creative playground imaginable for me and I was so free to play with whatever I wanted to, however I wanted to. I enjoyed those days so much.

I don't remember why we stopped.

Singing with the Zuzu Wagon.

Zuzu Wagon Review, 1992. I'm playing electric guitar, David is on acoustic and I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember our bass player's name, but he was a good player and a swell guy.

Robinson Mills played drums with us most of the time. My then current, now former-husband, funk drummer extraordinaire Mean Willie Green, played drums with us once or twice. (I'll put a link up on him at some point.)

Reading in the photo above is my friend, South African poet and actor Wonga Matanda, who was exiled in the U.S. for a while. I wish I knew his current whereabouts and how he is doing. He is an extraordinary man and I miss him.

My experiences with the Zuzu Wagon had tremendous impact on my self-concept as a musician. I'll never be able to thank David enough for knowing just what to do, when to push, and with exactly how much force to move me comfortably into what had been forbidden territory in my mind.

At the Dragon's Den with Unit One (Photo by Ray Fisk)

I owe another debt of gratitude to my dear friend Tim Green, one of the most gifted sax players on this planet and the person who took up where David left off by offering unparalleled support and encouragement. Tim is directly responsible for almost every musical performance I was involved in from 1993 through 2000, not to mention a recording session and some other management work he sent my way.

And finally, I want to acknowledge my love, Renard Poché for supplying so many of the resources I've needed to create a working project studio in my home and for buying me a bass for my 40th birthday. Oh, how I love playing it! Because of the luxury of these resources, I've written and recorded a couple dozen songs in a wide variety of genres over the last couple of years. My little set-up allows me to be spontaneous and let whatever wants to come out, come out— whenever it wants to.

I'm still working on having my songs in a form where I am OK with letting people hear them and I suspect the first things I'll make available are the jazz pieces I've written. Guess what? No vocals. I'm still battling the demons that make me hold back anything with vocals and sometimes I hide my head in my shirt when I do play songs where I'm singing, even though I've never gotten bad feedback on them. Most of the time, people are surprised that it's me singing, having had no idea that I've been living this secret life as a musician. It's been comfortable for me to keep it that way, but things like this essay have been part of the recommended therapy for getting over it.

So, Mr.Oliver, thank you. Thank you. Were it not for you, I'm sure my life would be very different. You pried opened a part of me that I was afraid to expose, despite the unacknowledged desire to let that part out to breathe in fresh air and bask in the sunlight. I can't say that I've done anything really remarkable yet, but I do think I have some good stuff to offer and I hope to share some of it with you soon. And I hope this story makes you smile, because I'm quite sure you had no idea what you really did for me.

With gratitude always,