Anniversary Time.

Posted by DmentD | Reflection | Wednesday 29 August 2007 10:13 am

Two years.  It’s been two years since that willful, pushy broad Katrina came to town and trashed the place, behaving for all the world like she owned it.  She overflowed the tub, she smashed in walls, participated in willful and wanton destruction of property and basically pissed everyone off and ruined the party.  She was a major buzz kill, and lots of folks just went away to get as far from her as possible.

So what are my feelings two years after my life and the lives of nearly everyone I know was turned upside down? After a hurricane rolled in and caused my home and many others to be destroyed, taking most of my possessions and tangible memories with it?  That’s not an easy question to answer.

On the one hand, I’m living in a place where I feel moderately safe and comfortable… definitely safer than NOLA.  I’m rebuilding a life, certainly not the life I had before — too much has changed for that to ever be the same again — and stepping outside of myself, I can see it’s not a bad life.  I have a good job, making good money.  I have friends around me and we offer each other comfort, love and distractions.  I have a roof over my head, with the prospect of having my own home again (now that the house in NOLA has finally sold).  I have a wonderful girl far, far away who I am nuts for and who is nuts for me, and there is the very real possibility that she will be coming here in the future to continue her training and be with me.

On the other hand, I still feel like a bit of an outsider in this wonderful town… even two years later.  NOLA will always be my home.  I can’t shake the feeling that either this is temporary, or that the other shoe will drop and a tornado or other devastating occurrence will rip everything from me again.  I have a cadre of friends from NOLA that relocated here and they are wonderful, fantastic, and absolutely what I needed to help keep my sanity the last two years.  But I’ve left so many behind that are either unwilling or incapable of relocation — and I miss you all dearly… if you fail to hear from me, I suspect it’s a defense mechanism that keeps me from dwelling on how lonely I can be without the rest of you around.  I’m chomping at the bit to buy a house, but at the same time the thought of losing it all again is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.  The job I have is wonderful — I enjoy the work, I really like my coworkers, and frankly as ‘political’ as the environment can be, it’s nothing compared to the outright hatred and malice for the IT Department I experienced working for that place in the ass-end of nowhere in Louisiana… but the passion isn’t there and I feel I could be doing something else, like making cakes, that would give me much more satisfaction.  The passion I did have for being creative and working with my hands seems to have drowned in the waters that flooded my home, but I suspect that will come back when I have a home again, and a space to work in that is all my own.  And as for my far away girl, well, all I can say is that I’ve taken one very real and agonizing blow to the heart since the storm and I live in fear that it’ll happen again — but I’m never going to let that stop me giving my all.

I’ve made a peace with the losses in my life: from the very sudden one two years ago, to the gradually onset one more recently.  I found equilibrium, healed myself to the best of my ability and moved on.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling uneasy or sad — the sadness isn’t a longing for what was that I can never have again, but more a twinge in my heart at the fond memories and what has passed.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty — guilt for vanishing when I could have returned to help rebuild, for creating a void in the lives of those who love me and stayed behind.  Call it survivor’s guilt, but I am trying to survive.

So, two years later I’m living and making a life.  What else can I do?  This life is worth living, no matter how bad it may seem at times — and since it’s worth living, it’s worth living to the fullest.  I’ve been purged and cleansed by the floodwaters; I only hope there is fertile soil to rebuild on.

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Distracted Losers, And The Lonely Bodies They Leave In Their Wake.

Posted by DmentD | Family,Friends,Reflection | Friday 27 July 2007 11:34 am

Man, I will be the first to admit I am the absolute worst at keeping touch with folks.  It’s shameful that I think of my family and friends quite often, but never think to sit down and email or call… and that’s what it boils down to, I don’t think about it.  I burn so many brain cells at work, spending them to very intensely focus on the projects and problems I am working on, that by the time I get home, I’m ready to not think about anything.  I check my email, respond to the things that float into my attention there and then move on to the autonomic tasks at hand: during the week I cook dinner, on the weekends I’m usually out doing something that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer all day.  Add to that the fact that I’m in the gym in the morning doing cardio, and back there again three evenings a week, and you’ve got one tired and distracted me.

*this entry was swiped from an email I wrote to my brother

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Is This Thing On?

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Exercise,Rambling,Reflection,Travel | Wednesday 18 July 2007 12:18 pm

*opens the stage door and steps out in front of the brightly burning lights*
*brushes the cobwebs from the microphone and taps it to make sure it is still live*
*shades his eyes with his hand to see if there is even anyone in the audience*
*shrugs and takes a deep breath*

So, here I am again after *looks down at the previous post* three months, and a patchy record of posts before that.  A lot has transpired in that amount of time.  A LOT.  Let me endeavor to fill in on some the comings and goings, and in no particular order:

» Lady and I are officially divorced.

It was mutually agreeably and uncontested. But… we are still very, very good friends.  After nearly eighteen years together as a couple neither of us wanted to abandon the deep, abiding friendship we started at the beginning and forged all through our years together.  We still love and respect one another, and care deeply for the other as one friend to another.  We worked very hard to preserve that, and I think we’ve succeeded.  People find this very strange indeed, but we figure that the only people who need to be cool with it is her and me.

» I finally got off my ass and into gear.

I have been steadily going to the gym and weightlifting since October of last year.  I added cardio to my routine a month ago, and I’ve been adjusting my food intake to a more reasonable level, cooking more at home and bringing lunch to work.  I’m still very hesitant to talk about health and exercise on the blog, as every time I have mentioned it in the past I seemed to have jinxed myself and fucked up my plans.  I’m not going to go into great detail here on the intartubes, but suffice to say that I’m slowly and steadily changing my shape.  No miracle stories to tell, and it’s a lot of hard, tedious exercise, but that was the realization I finally came to and accepted it.

» I’m happier and better adjusted than I have been in quite a while.

I’m not saying that I’m a perfect angel, content and sitting in my own little radiating pool of joy and wonderfulness, but the crushing depression and loneliness are like a fading bruise: still evident but gradually becoming a thing of the past.  I realized recently that if I have one skill or talent that defines me, it is the capacity to take things apart, find out how they work… and if broken, figure out how to fix them and put them back together.  It is the core of my nickname “Stuff” that I have the tools and aptitude to do this with anything I lay my hands on — computers, electronics, woodworking, cars, sculpting, etc. — and I did it, unknowingly, to myself… and plan to continue doing it till the end of my days.  I disassembled myself and figured out what was making me hurt, causing such pain and anguish and… well I’m figuring out how to fix that.

I’ve worked very hard to be an independent, self-reliant person, especially in an emotional capacity.  I’m learning how to be happy with myself, and for myself.  It’s easy to latch on to another person (or people) and make them the core of your joy.  It’s so much simpler to lean on others, to derive your emotional comfort from them rather than seeking it in yourself.  Once you can be comfortable and happy just being you, its so much more rewarding to compound your joy by adding someone else to the equation (if you so choose)… and it takes the overwhelming burden off their shoulders to be the wellspring of everything in your life that is good.  And it also takes away the desperate, choking need to have another in your life and allows you to relax and appreciate the world around you.  And on that note…

» There is a girl who lives far away that makes me very, very happy.

Those who know me know I never take the easy path when there is something worth doing.  I am apparently consistent with this in my romantic life too.  Through means and circumstances too convoluted to bother with here — let’s just say “we met on the internet” and leave it at that modern day cliché — I have become well acquainted with a charming, beautiful girl who lives 5000 miles and an ocean away from me.  She has the sweetest English accent, the loveliest curves, and I am completely smitten… so is she by all accounts.  She’s smart as a whip, sarcastic (read: a smartass), and she likes my shenanigans.  She’s a breath away from a culinary degree — waiting for the ink to dry on the certificate — and has a specialty interest in patisserie (that’s French pastry to you and me) and cakes.  Yes, cakes.  Her goal is to open her own patisserie and cake shop.  I keep trying to convince her there is a ripe market for it in Austin, and I happen to know an amateur specialty cake maker who would be very interested in assisting her with that endeavor.

She has come to visit me, and we spent a blissfully wonderful week together.  I am going to visit her in September (provided the passport I applied for two months ago ever arrives).  Neither of us knows for sure where we’re going with all of this, but we like the road we’re traveling, so we’re content to stay on it.  Even from 5000 miles away we contribute to each others happiness.  That’s an awesome thing.

» Took a trip to northern California.

Went with Team Dandy and Lady to get the native’s tour.  Had a lovely time, will have to make a separate post about this… too much to say, and I have tons of pictures I can add.  Stay tuned.

That, er, is about all I can think of in this sitting… like you aren’t thinking “that’s plenty, you long winded bastard.”  I make no promises, but I’m feeling inclined to post these days.  My life has leveled out of the steep nose dive it had taken, and I’m feeling comfortable in my own skin again.  I’m also famously horrible at keeping in touch with my friends and family (yeah, I’m a terrible thuggish imbecile that I can’t even do that), and this at least will help scratch that itch.

Onward and upward.  Whee!

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Vonnegone.

Posted by DmentD | Reflection | Saturday 14 April 2007 9:02 pm

Kurt Vonnegut passed away on April 11 — he was one of my favorite authors.  Even though I’ve been reading his work since I was very young, in the last decade or so he has had a profound influence on the way I’ve been shaping my world view (and still am to this day).  He was a Humanist, and as such has a philosophy that had become particularly inspiring to me over the years when presented through his fiction and non-fiction works.  I’ll let Kurt explain in his own words:

“Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ‘Kurt is up in Heaven now.’ That’s my favorite joke.”

And from Hocus Pocus (1990)

“I have looked up who the Freethinkers were. They were members of a short-lived sect, mostly of German descent, who believed, as did my Grandfather Wills, that nothing but sleep awaited good and evil persons alike in the Afterlife, that science had proved all organized religions to be baloney, that God was unknowable, and that the greatest use a person could make of his or her lifetime was to improve the quality of life for all in his or her community.”

I reread his novels frequently.  Every few years I’ll go the full cycle and start again.  His are some of the few books I will reread with this soft of frequency.  While his writing tended to be dark and humorous, it also had a tendency to build characters that could, and had to, stand on their own and face the horrors that plagued them with as much grace as they could muster.  Without knowing it, I was being taught a number of very important lessons, and only recently have I been able to see them for what they are.

I won’t say that Vonnegut’s passing has come as a shock… a surprise, yes, shock no.  He’d been complaining for years that he was pissed that smoking hadn’t killed him with cancer yet, and that he was going to sue the R.J. Reynolds company for false advertising, because it says plainly on the box that his Pall Malls would cause cancer.  I had expected him to kill himself before too long, and the unfortunate fact is, he fell and sustained head trauma that eventually just shut him off like a switch weeks later.  Such a shame.  Such a morbid way to go for a man who prized his intelligence.

Still, I’m sad to see him go.

Kurt is up in Heaven now.

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Philosofossil.

Posted by DmentD | Pictures,Reflection | Thursday 15 March 2007 9:05 pm

Learn from the past, look to the future, enjoy the present.

That’s what I’m trying to do, trying to teach myself… there are worse ways to go about living your life, and a little self-improvement isn’t a bad thing.

Another thing that I’ve known, but never really understood until recently is that happiness isn’t necessarily something handed to you on a silver platter, it’s something you have to work for.  Which makes it that much sweeter when you can have it and can maintain it.  The status quo isn’t specifically unhappiness, but it takes no effort to be miserable.  That’s like the cheap plastic keyring you win at the carnival just for playing the game.  You really have to knuckle down and work hard to win that stuffed 6′ tall pink teddy bear on the back wall — the pinnacle of the carny prize pool.  As my favorite philosopher says:

“Easy to bitch, easy to whine, easy to moan, easy to cry, easy to feel like there ain’t nothing in your life.  Harder to work, harder to strive, harder to be glad to be alive… but its really worth it if you give it a try.”

– Fred LeBlanc

I’m trying, dear Fred, I’m trying.  I’ve been working my ass off to be happy and I think its been paying off.  Not huge sums, but at least tiny dividends and that’s a good start.  I’m not completely miserable all the time, I’m actually maintaining a pretty good demeanor with brief periods of backsliding (AngerMan bubbles to the surface and I try to keep him in check).

Also, it appears that these two guys were separated at birth:

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The Avenue.

Posted by DmentD | Links,Reflection | Wednesday 14 February 2007 12:37 pm

I stumbled across a site today that is the home of a photographer who captures the historic architecture of St. Louis.  He made a pass through New Orleans late in 2006 and did a pictorial architecture tour called On The Road In New Orleans.

These photographs simultaneously made me more homesick than I have been in a year, and broke my heart.  As I sat there scrolling through the images, I could tell you almost precisely where every one was taken, from which corner and what you would see if you turned your head left or right.  I saw landmarks that I took for granted for over thirty years of my life.  I saw pictures of a city that made my heart skip a beat for the longing to return and put down stakes again.

Within most of these pictures, I saw destruction and decay.  I saw a city that had been abandoned by all but the hearts of those who have no other choice than to stay and pick up what pieces they can — a city that care forgot.  There were images to remind me why I choose not to go back, a city ravaged by crime, corruption and filth — plagues that existed before I was born but have been magnified and brought into sharp relief by a catastrophe.  I fear every day for the health and safety of the family and friends who remain there.  I wait for that call, the one to tell me someone I know has been robbed and killed, or hit by a stray bullet.  I read the local news every day and wonder why they haven’t burned most of the city down and bulldozed the ashes flat to make way for a brighter future.

New Orleans is where I was born and raised — it’s in my blood, heart and soul.  I don’t know that I will ever return, though… certainly not for a very long while.  But no matter where I live, no matter where I plant a flag and claim as my own, I’ll always be from New Orleans.  Like Fred LeBlanc says “It’s so hard to take this hurt and hide it on a shelf, it’s just cause I never want to be from somewhere else.”

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