The Woman of His Dreams

Her face, he knew would be beautiful because, she said, modestly, that others had always said that about her. He had no reason not to believe her. He had had so many conversations with people all over the world. He was not naive. He was college educated, a professional. He made good money and wore a suit to work everyday. He told her so. And it made her happy.

It started very casually, but quickly, they discovered that they had so much in common and got along so well. They had exactly the same sense of humor. He felt comfortable telling her everything, how he dreamed of buying a little house with a front porch and a fireplace, a house where they could eat together and sleep together, a house by a lake where they could take long walks together holding hands and laughing. Maybe they could even get a dog, though he didn't like dogs very much, but she did, he knew. And it made her very happy.

She told him things that made him very sad. She had had a complicated and hard life and many people, maybe because she was so beautiful, had tried to take advantage of her, and it made his heart hurt to hear these things. His heart had never hurt like that before. And he promised that her life with him would only be full of joy and ease, that he was a very simple man, that he liked his coffee however it was served to him and that he went to the movies once a week no matter what was playing and that he ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday for lunch. And she laughed, "Haha!" and that made him smile :)

Sometimes they went for hours without communicating and that would make him think about her even more, and the dreams, vague at first, started to fill with more and more details that he could never wait to share with her. Finally, he had found the woman of his dreams, finally he could be happy and never lonely. Finally she could be safe and free.

He began to believe in things he didn't know he believed in, like fate, and the power of positive thinking. He was grateful for each and every thing had that had ever happened to him, even his mom throwing out his entire t-shirt collection which had stung for so long, which he swore he would never forgive. But he understood the butterfly effect and knew that if it wasn't for every single thing that had ever happened to him, then he never would have met her. He tried to explain this all to her, and even though he wasn't very good with words, and English was not her best language, she got it ;)

He knew it was for real, finally, these feelings he had always hear other people talking about, but never had experienced for himself.  Something had always gotten in the way, like bad breath, or a horribly loud laugh, or incessant talking about old boyfriends. But she was so perfect it took his breath away and nearly made him cry when he had to say goodbye each evening.  XOXOXOXO.  He knew it was real because it was the same feeling he had when he watched a really great movie. 

The day finally came when she said that everything had been arranged, that she could fly the very next month to meet him. He sent her the check because it was cheaper for her to buy the flight there and included some extra money to settle some affairs that needed settling before she could leave. He was ecstatic. Everyone at the office noticed, and it made him blush like a kid. It was the happiest day of his life, the day she told him that she got the check and bought the ticket. He had two weeks to prepare.

He spent the entire weekend cleaning his apartment and bought a set of peach colored sheets and matching towels and a new see-through shower curtain. He made reservations and then canceled, at three different restaurants, because he couldn't decide on which she would like best. He mulled for hours on whether she would prefer just to go back to his place and order take-out. He practiced his best laugh and greeted her a thousand times in the mirror. He bought a new shirt and had it laundered twice. He got a haircut and a shave at the barber and had his car professionally cleaned. And in a final moment of brilliance, he bought ten scented candles for the bedroom and two dozen roses which he carried to the airport.

He was confused at first when she was wasn't there. But then, the confusion turned to concern. Something terrible must have happened. But as the days turned to weeks without hearing another word from her, he grew angry and then bitter, though what persisted was disappointment shadowed by clouds of embarrassment.


Bigsley and Bernadette: Delta Flight 2538

Believe me, Bernie, I would love to fly back with you the old fashioned way. But with the way the weather's been, one of us has to make the sacrifice and get back to secure the home front, and I wouldn't want that to be you. Trust me, Baby. This is way harder on me than it is on you.  Someday you'll thank me for this. That much, I can assure you.


Down in New Orleans

We went to the Maple Leaf in New Orleans and there was Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, aged 71, performing his second gig of the night.  He apologized for sitting down and sang about how we need to listen to the old people.  His band, the Golden Eagles, was a bunch of young guys with bland expressions, looking like they had heard Big Chief's rants before.  "I don't even know what I was saying," the Chief said after several songs.  He reassured us it's okay that way, the lyrics just flowing out.  The band put me into a trance that made me feel like light beams were coming from my palms.

Out back we sat with some drunk women who, when asked where they were from, said this is their neighborhood, that they live right around the corner.  They had an Australian guy with them who they had just met that morning.  One of the women flipped through dozens of photos on her phone, of her with the Australian.  Then they got into a disagreement about "scrolls", which the Australian guy finally conceded are like cinnamon rolls but without the cinnamon.

After the break, Big Chief said he could only stay for twenty more minutes because the next day was Super Sunday, the only day of the year when all the Black Indians come together for a parade, a tradition the Chief claims to have started.  "You all come down to Washington and LaSalle at noon and see," he said.  This was all new to me, but we had seen some of the costumes from years past at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, magnificent works of feathers and beads that the curator said take a year to make.

Twenty minutes later and the Chief was still singing.  Sitting down on the stage, leaning back on one elbow with the microphone held high in the air, riffing about how he owns his own house, how it took him seventy-one years to do that, and how we are coming down here with all our money and buying up houses in his neighborhood.  We had expected to see, post Hurricane Katrina, a shell of a city, but instead we saw people everywhere working to fix up the old buildings.  We walked through neighborhoods full of young urbanites with kids in strollers and dogs on leashes.  My friend who has been living there since 1988 said it was the most surprising thing, all these people who have moved in since Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday at noon we took a taxi to Washington and LaSalle.  The Ethiopian taxi driver told us to stick with the parade and not to hang around that neighborhood.  All around were abandoned houses, the glass gone, the doors covered with plywood.  But today, the streets were starting to fill as the Black Indians were gathering.  I was moved to get out my bamboo flute and play along to the drumming of some white women who were accompanying this particular Black Indian with his burgundy plumes blowing in the wind.

But I got the sense that this wasn't a join-in-if-you-want type of event, so we moved on and found the brass band that headed the parade, the lead man marching with his umbrella, his eyes bulging. Musicians were greeting spectators with hand shakes and hugs.  But every time I caught someone's eye they looked away without smiling.  There were some tourists taking pictures, but for the most part, this was a neighborhood event.  We talked to just one man who pointed out his friend selling BBQ, telling us it was the best in town.  We asked him how many years they had done this parade.  He shook his head.  "Centuries," he said.

What a thrill it was marching along New Orleans style with the trombones and the drums and the tambourines and the singing when I suddenly tuned into the lyrics.  Kill 'em.  Kill 'em.  Kill 'em. They sang. And I started thinking about all the complexities of this place and these people, who not too far back in their history were bought and sold and brutalized, whose culture is now idolized and commodified.  Chase 'em down.  Chase 'em down.  Chase 'em down.  They sang.  I suggested it might be time to leave.

So we watched the rest of the parade go by and then walked away, the abandoned houses suddenly menacing.  But it was just two blocks to St. Charles and a bistro freshly remodeled serving gourmet pizza and micro-brew.


George's First Skate


The best part of moving to Pacific is that we now live across the street from George.  He was over yesterday, for most of the afternoon.  My friend and I played Scrabble in the dining room while George wandered around humming.  Every couple of trips through the kitchen, he ran, chased by some burst of imagination.  He hid behind the couch until all was clear, emerging with a shrug and a grin.

"Can you believe this kid?" I asked my friend who knows what it means to have a spirited child.  My friend shook his head and beat me 313 to 296.  In our family, when my mom lost, she always blamed it on having terrible letters.  I could make no such claim.  The guy is plan smarter than I am, way more than the score implies.

This winter, George had his first skate.  I videoed until the battery ran out.  I didn't know what I was going to get.  Turns out, I caught quite a bit.  In twenty minutes George goes from not being able to stand up straight, to blocking shots on goal.  But it is the free form playing, continuously orbiting George that is equally instructive.

P.S.  I've never made meatloaf.


One Afternoon When the Door Was Open

what is it about that man that we don't understand could it be us rather than him that is the cause of our misunderstanding what is it about us that makes us ashamed of our own voices what it is about him (and us) that inspires his (and our) fear of those things that erupt spontaneously why is it that the faces of our songs are colored by our expectations what is it about ourselves that we have such trouble accepting how can we continue without finding fault in the inexplicable juxtaposition of him to us and us to him and we to this moment that has no reasonable justification except that it is it is it is it is it is what it is is

O Sangjin, vocals
Tad Neuhaus, bass
Joanna Dane, flute

*Coloring help by Roseanna



A day slips by, then two, then four, and like Andy Goldsworthy, I feel completely disconnected from what seemed so imperative for so long.  He goes into the woods or along the shore or among the grassy fields and rearranges what he finds until he is satisfied.  And I fill notebooks with words and drawings. These habits take years to form but can unravel in a moment.  Hear a whistle blow, turn your head, get lost on the main roads, and suddenly it's all disappeared.

Today the sun is out.  The ice begins to melt.  Walking is pleasurable again.  I stop by a friend's house to discover it's her birthday.  We drink coffee in the bright living room with the dogs in our laps laughing to other people's stories.  One man who has been through three surgeries after his colon freakishly knotted, tells what he learned from so nearly dying.  Every morning, before he gets out of bed, he looks at the beautiful city, and he looks at his beautiful wife, and he thinks, "I have today, I have everything."*

*Andy Borowitz's An Unexpected Twist