Last week I went to visit my friend Jennifer and her family in Tenessee. Jenn's originally from New Orleans, but like most of my friends growing up, she always wanted to live somewhere else. I didn't blame her. New Orleans is a messed up place, especially now, though she moved well before Hurricane Katrina. My friend Fred and I feel the same way about the place. Love for it has nothing to do with logic. It's like falling in love with the wrong person - you can't explain it. I mean, really. We're top on the charts for murder, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, corrpution, and we've got a long way to go in the racial harmony department. And I haven't even gotten started on the weather.
I always compare the humidity in New Orleans to what it would feel like if you stepped inside of someone's mouth. It's not just that it's hot. It's thick with humidity. I read an article by a guy once who came here on a book tour and he said that breathing here in the summer was like trying to breathe through a straw. But the air in the straw doesn't shoot up to your mouth, it gets stuck like when you suck in a McDonald's milkshake that's way too thick. Breathing became work for him until his body adjusted.
Tenessee is not like this. If Tenessee does a tourist campaign in New Orleans they should really hype up the breathing. "Come to Chatanooga, and breathe effortlessly! Stand outside for thirty seconds without having to shower afterwards!" Chatanooga was hot but it wasn't smothering like at home. And it was cool in the mornings! What the hell?! In the middle of the day we would go outside and I'd think, "So this is what plain old heat feels like without humidity...not bad."
The trip was a blast. It was me and Jenn again the way it was in our teens and early 20's, only with her four month old and four year old sons, and my three kids added to the mix. Ok, it's drastically different, but it's still me and Jenn. Plus, Claire said the strangest thing on the road trip. Emma screamed and said, "Claire get off me!" So I said, "Claire, leave Emma alone." And she said, "But I need a DNA sample." I was not sure how to respond to this. When I was a kid we played "I spy" on road trips. What the hell was Claire doing to pass the time? I never got an answer.
While we were in Chatanooga we went to the Aquarium which is huge, more expensive than I expected, and awesome. We were passing through the exhibit on swamps when I spotted a display case with a turtle shell next to a picture of an enormous cathedral. The statement next to it was this, "The turtle shell is a masterpiece of living architecture. Like a gothic cathedral, the domed shell provides maximum space within and strength to withstand the ages." I liked those two sentences so much I wrote them down. They're kind of lofty and perhaps they air on the overly dramatic side because it's just talking about turtles, but that's what I like about them. I didn't expect to find an illuminating observation in the swamp exhibit. I have a habit of writing down sentences and poems that I like when I find them and sometimes I'll underline them in books. It's like saving antique fabrics.
This sort of leads me to my latest anxiety. It's a weird one and I don't know why I'm worried about this since there are already so many other things to worry about, but I worry that I'm too much of a comment hog on Kevin Alexander's blog. I just get really excited about writing, especially when I'm talking to other writers and I tend to go on and on and on. I'm afraid I hog space doesn't belong to me. It belongs to Kevin. Maybe I should just go on and on and on here. Or maybe I should just stop being so self-conscious all the time. Yes, that is something to consider. Damn it, yoga isn't working fast enough! I demand self-esteem now, universe! That is, if it's not too much trouble.
Anyway, in the spirit of sharing poems that I think are bitchin', here is a poem. That is bitchin'.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.