Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bay St. Louis MS, October 2005
I first came to the Gulf Coast in October 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. 

As nationally and locally we reflect on the trauma and recovery process brought on by that experience, I encourage you to think about how your own community may be growing or stunted.

We are living in revolutionary times, and we have many opportunities to build a better way for ourselves.

With love from New Orleans,

Where to donate money in New Orleans

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Conversations with a real-live misogynist!

My fake neighbor who rents out his entire house on AirBnB stopped by this afternoon, and managed to piss me off within seconds:

Guy my age: Hey, my baby!

Me: I'm not your baby.

Guy: That's not what I meant. I was just saying hey.

Me: Then just say "hey." Don't call me "baby."

Guy: I mean, it's not a big deal.

Me: It doesn't have to be.

Guy: Saying "Hey, my baby" isn't offensive.

Me: [Stares] What do you want, anyway?

Guy: Well, if you're going to be like that...

I've spoken with this particular individual before about calling me out of my name, and he never seems to learn. Not only is it falsely intimate and uncute, it's demeaning.

I'm a woman, and calling me "baby," "girl," or any variation of that diminishes the knowledge and life experiences that I have earned. Unless you're my friend or romantic partner, and we've consensually adopted certain expressions of affection, you don't really need to be calling me names at all.

Also, don't ever tell someone what is or isn't offensive. You don't know all the ways in which I experience disrespect in the world. Especially if I'm taking the time to be patient with you and explain my objections to your behavior, you should listen to and heed my boundaries. You're welcome for pointing out misogyny, which is a form of gender-based violence. Now go and unlearn it.

Besides, there are really only two people in the world allowed to choose my name, and they are my parents. They've been around since I was a wee one, and they changed all my diapers. They can call me whatever they want. But actually, they never call me "baby"; they just call me "Arielle." And you can too.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hibakusha: The atomic-bombed people of Japan

"At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6th, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department at the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.

"At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defence fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-storey mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassennann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tammoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. . .

". . . Hiroshima had been getting such warnings almost every night for weeks, for at that time the B-29s were using Lake Biwa, north-east of Hiroshima, as a rendezvous point, and no matter what city the Americans planned to hit, the Super-fortresses streamed in over the coast near Hiroshima. The frequency of the 'warnings and the continued abstinence of Mr. B with respect to Hiroshima had made its citizens jittery; a rumour was going around that the Americans were saving something special for the city."

- John Hersey, Hiroshima

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wtf parklet now has no benches, but it does have a list of rules

The parklet on Independence and St. Claude has no trash bin, no street lamp, and now no benches. It does, however, have a new name, a list of rules, and a curfew.

Private property developed with public money

My neighbors and I wondered how the parklet operators, an amalgamation of neighborhood associations and St. Claude Main Street, arrived at the decision to remove the benches and post the rules.

An email inquiry to the Bywater Neighborhood Association and St. Claude Main Street Board member/former President Jonathan Rhodes went unanswered for 12 days, at which point the BNA suggested I contact St. Claude Main Street or "the property owner," for whom no contact information was given.

[I actually do have the property owner's phone number because he creepily stuck his business card in my front door one night when I wasn't home, requesting that I blog about "the good things [he's] doing for the neighborhood, such as with youth."]

Interestingly, St. Claude Main Street just received a litter-abatement grant from an entity known as Keep Louisiana Beautiful. SCMS' excuse for the lack of conventional garbage pick-up at the parklet has been to blame the City for not providing a trash bin. Maybe now they can afford their own?

Art park with no art but, inexplicably, a gazillion bike racks

The immediate result of the bench removal is that parklet visitors now sit on the uncomfortably low mound patios. (There must be an architectural term for these structures?)

There is still a bunch of trash strewn about the lawn, and the lone tree continues to wilt due to landscaperly negligence.

Sad wilting tree of Wtf Parklet

I tried to look again at the "community survey" results from when SCMS kind of asked for neighborhood residents' opinions about parklets, but the webpage was taken down.

Instead I found a page thanking Maurice and Cynthia Slaughter, the owners of the parklet, for their recent generous contribution to SCMS: "We couldn't do it without you!" Indeed.

On grief and loss

Nine years ago today, I lost someone very important to me. He was unhappy with life, and he ended it.

I found out when I was in the gutted Willy Smith school in Violet, Louisiana, running a soup kitchen for survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the volunteers who came to support them. I felt alienated and totally lost. I was far from home trying to help strangers, while my friend suffered and died.

I wrote a long and rambling letter to his family, trying to explain that he loved them very much, though I'm sure it was a hard idea for them to process at the time. Having known him well, I understood why he did it, and I couldn't pass judgment.

When we think of grief, we tend to imagine those desperate few hours and days following a death, in which the whole world seems to cave in and suffocate us. We move as in a crushing water bubble: sound is distorted, and time is marked by meals, bathroom breaks, and going to bed.

We are alive, yet our loved one is not. We cannot touch them, see them, feel them, hear them, even smell them as we did before. We worry that we will forget - or have already forgotten - who they were, and what they looked like. We mix up tenses, wanting them to be present but knowing their lives have passed.

Every year as I get older than my friend, my mental image of him gets cloudier. I worry that I hold an unreal version of him in my heart. I worry that my memories of his life are imperfect. I worry that I am glossing over the complications of our relationship, so as to not speak ill of the dead. I sometimes think I am not supposed to feel disappointed in him, or angry that he left me, or guilty about his death, especially after so many years.

I accept that he is gone, but I keep his number in my phone. Every time I meet someone with his name, I have to pause to collect myself before engaging. I reach out to his sister and father, but I don't know if I do it for them or me.

Jewish mourning rituals extend for years, and sometimes indefinitely, following a person's death. Candles are lit on the anniversary day, and there is a special prayer known as the mourners kaddish. Some congregations say this prayer collectively every week to honor all Jewish deaths.

We talk about loss when a person dies, but mourners end up gaining a new depth of emotional experience. Very few things can soothe the initial angst, or the chilling, ongoing grief. I guess talking helps, but mostly I just sit with it, hoping he finally has the peace he sought.



May there be abundant peace from heaven,

and life for us and all people Israel, to which we say,


Friday, June 26, 2015

A note on the Supreme Court's decision to affirm same-sex marriage

I remember being in my high school's student publication room watching the news when Massachusetts started allowing same-sex marriage. I also remember nobody else in the room caring.

Hopefully someday, gay marriage will become as mundane as non-gay marriage.

Hopefully someday, marriage will no longer stand as the arbiter of legitimate relationships in this country.

Hopefully someday, people will recognize that our struggles are connected, and that "not caring" is a way to keep others down.

Hopefully someday, people can just be who they are without having a whole big deal about it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Some things I am interested in these days

being kind to people you know and don't know
taking a compassionate stand in life
reading books about different cultures
listening respectfully to people who trust you with their stories
not being an asshole
deconstructing stigma of mental illness and drug use
renaming streets after real heroes in American history
tearing down monuments to hatefulness
saying "I love you, you matter" while people are still alive
not being too hard on yourself, but being a little hard
helping people become better versions of their selves
helping people become as blessed as you are
petting cats and dogs
laughing with children
earning consent
behaving like a wild thing
behaving like a controlled thing
believing in your stars
coloring a picture
riding your bike
marching for justice
growing food
playing your instrument
avoiding pain
dealing with misfortune
walking the line
toeing the line
dispensing with the line entirely
being unafraid to say and do and believe unpopular things
singing your song
dancing your dance
taking up space