September 7, 2005
In 1996, I left Texas to return to Minnesota, after having also lived in Wisconsin and New York -- sixteen years later, an adult, or so I believed, and why wouldn't I? Except for working merely part-time at good assistant jobs in college, I had also worked full-time, had supported myself entirely without the benefit of shared income and other amenities, such as salary, whilst in pursuit of a ten-year training that would certainly bring in a real job again one day. When I got here, I learned that I was currently among the "homeless," though I lived in a beautiful, secure wooded place called home. I learned that I had been homeless, because I had lived in apartments. A good one of those the people from home might not have heard of nor could they imagine really liking. Further, I had probably charged for sex as a prostitute -- maybe even been in porn -- as all of those who were not married and living in cities probably had. It took three, even four years, to find out that they had thought all those things about me, generically. I then wanted to retreat, without ever getting over my terrific Houston garage apartment on its good block of Kipling -- or my loss in ability to pay for it. I had had no chance to correct the suburbans' misimpressions because they had kept them hid or passed them only amongst one another.
Men bought meals eaten together. Otherwise, we covered ourselves. If both were meager on funds, chances are you ate alone -- however you did that -- eating $20 takeout with the TV on or perhaps over a book or magazine or by opening a can of soup. Rarely did people even want to eat together unless they were combined, either living together or hooked up or thought to be getting involved, even in passing, worse, like here, like the suburbs. The suburban imagination goes wild in its open spaces, leaps across country miles and rooftops -- travels by wish and telephone -- with dark tales of city life!
All of that reminds me of Barbara Bush's comment that the poor of New Orleans were better off camping 300 miles from home in a sports arena than they were in their own city, houses, and apartments. Only the very game and healthy would feel caught up as if in adventure in their newly dislocated positions -- as if all of Houston were rich and offering itself just ahead of them, lying at the feet of the poor!
Wealth of Friends
September 2, 2005
Several years ago, friends I had followed over the course of serious travails and career moves and changes and relationship decisions and bouts of family disharmony and even cancer, old age, and death, suddenly decided, independently of one another, ready for the next great move, to cut ties they no longer cherished as active. I am a double Taurus, Leo rising, which means I am loyal to the way things are and have been and to improving what needs improving, to try. One friend, exiting, even blurted that it was my always trying that had finally irritated her.
Imagine where I would be if I had moved to New Orleans -- which I could have done -- to "start over" (instead of loyally insisting on moving to my hometown in MN). I might have been crowded into the sports dome, awaiting evacuation, not off with the other poets in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. My only friend in Lafayette is a photographer -- and not one of the cut-'er-off-'ers.
When I had first met Betty in Houston, she spent ten days driving me to used car dealerships, concerned that I not end up with a lemon. She made the salesmen nervous when she climbed under the cars after asking lots of questions -- she had been an Air Force mechanic. I heard that years ago that she had had to go to a hospital for depression, and I wasn't there, I was here, not hearing of it until later, not knowing her address -- who was there? That friend, Betty, was gold.
With prices on their way up and the war on, Americans do not want to contemplate what it will cost to pull up New Orleans -- the government did not want to fix its levees ahead of time, either. I have visited the city many times, and it's true, I think it's one of the rosiest places I have ever been, with best food, strolling, and music. I wish a talented batch of oysters would collect stories, vignettes, write portraits -- better than the trite ones we get in the news -- not short stories or poems, but thumbprints of the real people who are waiting for help in the city, so we could know who they are.
[Story-gathering projects did start up following the hurricane; evacuees to Houston gave accounts to writers in W.I.T.S.]