Notes from Atlantis

Random Thoughts from the Crescent City

Friday, April 07, 2006

Notes from Atlantis 18

Dear Folks,

Bill’s mom died up in Bethesda on March 24, and I’ve been wondering what, if anything, I should write about that here. This is, after all, a blog called “Notes From Atlantis”, not “Notes About Anything And Everything That Happens To AVP.” A couple of things, though...

I wish she could have come down to see New Orleans, especially now. I think she would have loved it...maybe just because she loved good music and good food and great parties! But I think she also would have admired it and found it fascinating. She ended up fighting her own good (long) fight with illness and pain, and she certainly knew a thing or two about toughness. One of the things I’ll always treasure was her support for us when we decided (after a few failures of nerve) to move down here after all. It meant a lot. Thanks, Elle.

It’s also strange whenever you come to a watershed like a parent’s death. It’s a time when you moves to the head of the line, so to speak, and the view back becomes in one sense finished, and the view forward becomes a little more open-ended. I find myself feeling more and more as if we were moving into open territory, with fewer and fewer signposts: no Do Not Enters, no One Ways, no Stops. It’s liberating, in a way. After my mother died, it occurred to me that I could rewrite my past in anyway I liked, and there would be very few people (no immediately family) to contradict me. Bill only knows me from age 18 on. That’s true of almost everyone else. They only know me as an adult. Is it pleasant to feel my hold on my childhood becoming so tenuous? In a way yes, and in a way no. I suppose ultimately, we all see our stories go from the absolute reality of NOW to the debatable reality of shared memories (anyone for “Roshomon”?) to the sketchiness of “I think...” until they’re finally obliterated.

Maybe that’s why I’ve so much enjoyed doing these blog entries. Because I’ve been able to freeze memories that seem to be going by at dizzying speed.

And maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted to write stories in the first place. To freeze them and share them. To make them last.

Well, something at any rate is going to be frozen and last: I’ve written a “Perspective” piece about New Orleans for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. I have no idea when it will come out, or if I’ll ever see it: we haven’t received magazines down here for seven months. But it was gratifying, and also surprisingly hard work: how could I encapsulate life down here into the confines of a short formal essay? A success? I haven’t no idea. But it’s one more thing that’s been fixed in the flux, so I suppose that’s something.

I guess what I’m groping for here is the fact that my persistent optimism about New Orleans isn’t a 24/7 phenomenon. There are times when I’m scared to death down here. Not of the city. I’ve never felt like New Orleans was going to harm me...maybe that’s naive on my part, but I always felt much more nervous up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, surrounded by conformity, than I’ve ever felt down here in the land of holy fools.

But I fear the storms, and I fear the bureaucracy that’s already been responsible for so many deaths, and I fear the many people in other countries who hate us (with some cause) and I fear the casual disdain of so many people in THIS country, who appear to have already forgotten us. Maybe that’s just my fear talking. Maybe fear IS the only thing New Orleans has to fear. I hope with all my heart that’s true. Talk to me next November, when the 2006 hurricane season is over, and I’ll tell you.

So many friends have been supportive of this strange, personal undertaking of mine, writing in my own voice, that it’s enormously touching. In fact many people have chided me for not writing more, and to them I’d like to apologize and say, it’s lovely being asked! I’d also like them to understand that when I DON’T write, it’s because I don’t feel like I understand something yet, or I’m not sure what I think yet, and it takes time to sort out my own mind before I feel confident in putting even these fleeting impressions on a screen. Even pixels are a kind of freezing, and while I’m sure a lot of what I’ve written here is wrong, I don’t want to lie. At least to the degree that that’s possible.

More later,

Ad’n

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