Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Italian in New Orleans

New Orleans fan can't wait to return: A letter to the editor
By Letters to the Editor February 23, 2010, 5:20AM


I'm an Italian graduate student studying in Boston, and I'm writing this letter to share how I fell in love with New Orleans during Mardi Gras 2010 and how this changed some of my ideas and understandings about the United States and some of its citizens.

What I found in New Orleans was a mix of national feelings, culture and warm people. I enjoyed every second that I spent with the family that hosted me, and I remained astonished while interacting with people, as this was different from where I live and other places I have visited throughout the world.

In New Orleans everyone wanted to give me good feelings even during the most common routines such as buying something or asking directions! This warmness is unique worldwide.

I realize that there is a very strong community feeling and people are proud of being part of the New Orleans dream. I think that the people I met love New Orleans so much that they were able to let other people love it as well.

I'm now back in my Boston office, but I came back enriched with some remarkable feelings. I've found a place in the United States where life goes on in a calm way and people are so warm and genuine that foreigners fall in love with the city.

All my lab mates now know how incredible the people in New Orleans are, and I'm looking forward to revisiting this great city as soon as possible.

Renato Umeton
Cambridge, Mass.

Friday, February 26, 2010

AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION - and Dark Skies

AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION HOUSE OF DELEGATES
Resolution: New England 1 (A-09)


Introduced by: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont Delegations

Subject: Advocating and Support for Light Pollution Control Efforts and Glare Reduction for Both Public Safety and Energy Savings

Referred to: Reference Committee, Chair)

Whereas, Our AMA has long advocated for policies that are scientifically sound and that positively influence public health policy; and

Whereas, We in the AMA have an opportunity to influence and promote legislation at both the national and state level on energy savings through a reduction in light pollution; and

Whereas, Light pollution is increasingly recognized as a waste of energy and a public safety issue; and

Whereas, It has been calculated that over 10 billion dollars in wasted energy could be saved with the use of full cutoff streetlights; and

Whereas, Emitted glare light is wasted light and accounts for about 40% of the light emitted by standard streetlights (cobras), it is therefore a significant source of wasted electricity, and this contributes to excess carbon dioxide production and possibly global warming; and

Whereas, Numerous states (Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming), many municipalities, and several countries have now enacted Light pollution control measures; and

Whereas, Light pollution control legislation is being proposed in Congress; and
Whereas, Streetlight glare causes decreased nighttime visibility by pupil constriction, and thus leads to diminished nighttime visibility and creates a safety hazard i,ii,iii,iv,v,vi,vii; and

Whereas, Many older citizens are significantly affected by glare as the eye ages, leading to unsafe driving conditionsn viii,ix,x,xi,xii,xiii,xiv,xv; and

Whereas, Glare light is also light trespass and is intrusive and unwanted in households and dwellings; and

Whereas, Light trespass has been implicated in disruption of the human and animal circadian rhythm, and strongly suspected as an etiology of suppressed melatonin production, depressed immune systems, and increase in cancer rates such as breast cancers xvi,xvii,xviii,xix,xx,xxi,xxii; and

Whereas, Light trespass disrupts nocturnal animal activity and results in diminished various animal populations’ survival and health xxiii;

Therefore be it RESOLVED,
That our American Medical Association advocate that all future outdoor lighting be of energy efficient designs to reduce waste of energy and production of greenhouse gasses that result from this wasted energy use (New HOD Policy);

and be it further RESOLVED,
That our AMA support light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels (New HOD Policy);

and be it further RESOLVED,
That our AMA support efforts to ensure all future streetlights be of a fully shielded design or similar non-glare design to improve the safety of our roadways for all, but especially vision impaired and older drivers. (New HOD Policy)

Fiscal Note: Staff cost estimated at less than $500 to implement.
Received: 03/30/09

i US Department of Transportation, Phase II of ENV project, Chapter 3: Discomfort and Disability Glare Study, 2005

ii Schieber, F, Kline, DW, Kline,TJB, Fozard, JL (1992). Contrast Sensitivity and the visual problems of older drivers. Warrendale, PA . Society of Automotive engineers (SAE Technical paper No. 920613)

iii Olsen, PL, and Aoke, T, (1989) The measurement of Dark Adaption level in the presence of glare, Ann Arbor, MI: Transportation Research Institute, University of Michigan, (report No. UMTRI-89-34).

iv Adams, AJ, Wong, LS, Wong, L, and Gould, B. (1988). Visual Acuity Changes with age: Some new Perspectives. American journal of Optometry and Physiological optics. 65, 403-406.Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2007), Development of a Uniform discomfort/Disability glare metric for roadway lighting

v Brabyn, J.A., & Haegerstrom-Portnoy, G., & Schneck, E. (2000). Visual impairments in elderly people under everyday viewing conditions. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness, 94 (12), 741-755.

vi Guirao, A., & Gonzalez, C., & Redondo, M., & Geraghty, E., & Norrby, E., & Artal, P. (1999). Average Optical Performance of the Human Eye as a Function of Age in a Normal Population. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 40 (1), 203-213.

vii Ngai, P., & Boyce, P. (2000). The effect of overhead glare on visual discomfort. Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, 29 (2), 29-38.
viii Owsley, C, et al. Impact of Cataract Surgery on Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement by Older Adults, JAMA 2002;288:841-849.

ix Rubin GS, Adamsons IA, Stark WJ. Comparison of acuity, contrast sensitivity, and disability glare before and after cataract surgery. Arch Ophthalmol. 1993;111:56-61.

x Elliott DB, Bullimore MA. Assessing the reliability, discriminative ability, and validity of disability glare tests. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1993;34:108-119.

xi Kloog, Stevens, Richard, et al., Light at Night Co-distributes with incident breast but not lung cancer in the female population of Israel, Chronobiology International 25(1): 65-81 (2008)

xii Schernhammer ES, et al. (2001) Rotating Night Shifts and the risk of Breast Cancer in the Nurse’s Health Study. J National Cancer Institute. 93: 1563-1568

xiii Schernhammer ES et al. (2006) Night Work And the risk of Breast Cancer. Epidemiology 17:108-111

xiv Pauley, SM (2004) Lighting for the Human Circadian Clock: Recent Research indicates that Lighting has become a Public Health Issue Med. Hypotheses 63:588-596

xv Hahn, RA (1991) Profound Bilateral Blindness and the incidence of Breast Cancer Epidemiology 2:208-210

xvi Feychting, M et al (1998) Reduced Cancer Incidence among the Blind Epidemiology 9:490-494

xvii Brainard, GC et al, (2001) Action Spectrum for Melatonin Regulation in Humans: Evidence for novel Circadian Photoreceptor J. Neurosci 21:6405-6412

xviii Blask DE et al, (2005) Melatonin-Depleted Blood from Pre-menopausal Women exposed to light at Night stimulates growth of human-breast cancer xenografts in nude rats Cancer Research 65:11174-11184

xix McGwin G, Chapman V, Owsley C. Visual risk factors for driving difficulty among older drivers. Accid Anal Prev. 2000;32:735-744.

xx Elliott DB, Bullimore MA. Assessing the reliability, discriminative ability, and validity of disability glare tests. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1993;34:108-119.

xxi Vos JJ. Disability glare: a state of the art report. CIE Journal. 1984;3:39-53.

xxii Owsley, Cynthia et all. Visual Risk Factors for Crash Involvement in Older Drivers With Cataract, Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119:881-887

xxiii Gray, Robert. Predicting the effects of Disability Glare on Driving Performance, Proceedings of the forth International driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and vehicle Design.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keeping the Night Sky Dark

Second in a three part Dark Sky series

"Darkness is as essential to our biological welfare, to our internal clockwork, as light itself." -Verlyn Klinkenborg, "Our Vanishing Night," National Geographic magazine, November 2008

Last week in the first article of our three part series on Dark Skies , we took a look at the Dark Sky movement, some of the impacts and examples of light pollution here in the Denver area, and considered ways to choose exterior lighting fixtures that do not contribute to light pollution.

The effects of light pollution run far deeper than wasted energy in the form of light directed at the skies and minimized visibility of stars. More insidious impacts of light pollution are engaging a wider community than astronomers and sustainability advocates, such as cancer researchers and sleep experts.

From an evolutionary standpoint, human lives have long been regulated by night (dark) and light (day) cycles. Light/dark cycles regulate our internal timeclocks, or circadian rhythms, and are critical for the production of hormones and immune system function.

For thousands of years, our ancestors woke with the rising sun and went to sleep when cued by darkness. Until the industrial era, firelight, and later, gas lamps, were the only “artificial” light available after nightfall. Even then, artificial light was characterized by a golden glow similar to the warmth of a dimmed incandescent bulb.

Our nighttime world stands in marked contrast to this. Viewing a map of the earth at night, our cities glow like stars in the sky, and we have worked assiduously to render the night a replica of day time through excessive use of artificial light, certain that this makes us more secure.

What have we accomplished? Numerous studies indicate that high levels of artificial light do not create a safe night environment. In our quest for security, we have managed to skew circadian rhythms and, in the last 80 years alone, render more damage to our ability to sleep, our immune system function, and our blood sugar regulation than our predecessors managed to achieve in thousands of years.

Various studies from locations around the globe show increased cancer risk among women in industrialized countries, as well as shift workers. What do these people have in common? Exposure to artificial light at night.

Dr. George Brainard, a researcher at George Washington University who studies the impact of light on sleep cycles, notes the impact of a light on participants in sleep lab research. Participants slept in a completely darkened room. After control data was taken, a light emitter the size of a dime was taped to the back of each participant’s knee. The effect of this minimal amount of light on the skin? Sleep cycles were significantly disrupted, and immune system function was suppressed. Any light exposure at night, particularly in the cooler (more blue) portion of the light spectrum, suppresses melatonin production, which in turn promotes wakefulness. And with melatonin suppression comes diminished Natural Killer cell (NK) and T cell production, the front line of immune system function.

The danger of night time light’s effect on human health is significant enough that the conservative American Medical Association (AMA) has voiced a formal position decrying the impacts of light pollution and recommending immediate action to minimize it. According to the AMA, "Light trespass has been implicated in disruption of the human and animal circadian rhythm, and strongly suspected as an etiology of suppressed melatonin production, depressed immune systems, and increase in cancer rates such as breast cancers." Find more information on this important step in supporting Dark Sky legislation here.

As individuals, we can take action in our homes to guard ourselves against the effects of light trespass. Add blackout curtains or blinds in bedrooms to make sure they are completely darkened at night. If a light is required, such as in a child’s room, use a nightlight in the amber or red portion of the spectrum, which is shown to have much less impact on the dark-adapted eye and circadian rhythm than light in the blue portion of the spectrum. Talk to neighbors to respectfully request that their glaring spot light is redirected and shielded.

The next step is to eliminate the sources of light trespass outside the house. In our third and last article in this three part Dark Sky series, we will consider ways to interact with the community at large to promote Dark Skies and enact regulations for Dark Sky compliant lighting.

Lisa Barter is a lighting designer with extensive experience in the architecture and interior design fields. She is the principal of 3i Design, LLC, a lighting design and interior architecture consulting practice. She welcomes your questions and ideas, and you can reach her via email: inspire@3interiorize.com

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dark Skies improve your green lifestyle

First in a three part Dark Sky series

As we round the corner into a new year, many of us are taking time to assess what's working in our lives and what we want to improve. If a more sustainable or green lifestyle is on your list, then 2010 is the perfect time to commit to eliminating light pollution and supporting the fight to keep our skies dark so we can see the stars, save energy, and minimize some very serious health impacts from uncontrolled light at night.

Light Pollution: An Overview
Light pollution is any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste. Denver suffers from serious light pollution caused by uncontrolled light directed up toward the sky. The good news is that light pollution is, in many cases, easier and less expensive to remedy than other types of pollution. And the changes can begin with your own choices about exterior lighting at night.

Examples of Light Pollution
A great example of light pollution is a post-top lantern, often nostalgic in style, which emits light in all directions. Standard "cobra head" streetlights, though they have an opaque top, emit light above a 90 degree angle, which means that they are not Dark Sky compliant. Another is billboard lighting that aims upward. A common residential offender is a lantern style fixture in which the bulbs are visible and the light escapes in all directions.


For local light pollution, look no further than 6th Avenue west of downtown. The floodlights between the access road and 6th Avenue mounted on poles, with regular "cobra head" streetlights below are much brighter than necessary, poorly positioned to light the road, and are a source of glare to drivers as well as the people who live nearby. Driving the Denver metro area, look for these "glare bombs" and post their location in the comment section at the bottom of the article. They're everywhere.

Why Is Light Pollution a Problem?
Remember lying in the grass as a child and looking up at the stars? Our children, as well as those of us who enjoy stargazing or taking in meteor showers, like November's Leonid shower, are missing out on that opportunity. Much more serious implications of light pollution include disruption in human circadian rhythms, sleep cycles, and immune system function, as well as a deleterious effect on animal reproduction. In addition, light directed at the sky is, in all cases, a waste of energy, no matter how exciting it appears. A closer look at the links between light pollution and human health issues will be explored in the other articles in this three part series.

How Can We Make It Better?
In an ideal world, we would no longer attempt to mimic the glow of daylight in our night time world, and instead, would lower all ambient light levels since the dark-adapted eye needs much less light than a bright-adapted eye in order to see.

Here's the good news. As individual citizens, we can make exterior lighting choices at our homes and workplaces that do not further light pollution. The International Dark Sky Association, which is dedicated to preserving dark skies and pushing for legislation to enforce dark sky compliance in communities, has published a list of fixtures that can be used in all types of outdoor applications without lighting up the night sky, angering neighbors, or wasting energy. Let's explore some common elements.

1. Assess your requirements. Determine where you really need light. Don't use light as "decoration" or for visual effect at night.

2. Direct light where it is needed. Remember that at night, less is more.
Concentrate fixtures only where needed. Choose fixtures that can be aimed, and keep them aimed toward the ground.

3. Avoid glare. Glare actually compromises safety, as it can render an attacker or intruder invisible. Glare is often caused by an unshielded source, such as a fixture where the bulb is visible.

4. Use lower wattage bulbs. More light does not mean more safety. The dark adapted eye can best see at night when there is uniformity of illumination. A bright light against a dark background causes pupil contraction, so the dark background beyond the bright light is invisible.

5. Use "full cutoff" fixtures, which means that less than 1% of their light output is emitted above 90 degrees from horizontal.

6. Make sure that the light source is not visible when viewing the fixture straight on.

7. Keep in mind the motto "Lights Down, Stars Up".


For some Dark Sky compliant light fixtures, check out the International Dark Sky Association's approved fixtures or Skykeepers.org approved fixtures. Both websites are filled with information about dark skies and how to take action to minimize light pollution.

Resolve this year to take action on behalf of keeping our skies dark. Think of light pollution as light leak. If light fixtures were water faucets, and any light emitting toward the sky was a drip, we'd fix it immediately. Let's address light pollution with the same zeal we apply toward other matters of sustainability and energy waste, and encourage those around us to do the same. If your neighbors have bright lights that shine into your bedroom at night, check out this great resource on how to address the topic with diplomacy.

In the next two articles in our three part Dark Sky series, we'll address more specifics on fixture selection and how light exposure at night affects our health.

Lisa Barter is a lighting designer with extensive experience in the architecture and interior design fields. She is the principal of 3i Design, LLC, a lighting design and interior architecture consulting practice. She welcomes your questions and ideas, and you can reach her via email: inspire@3interiorize.com

Monday, February 15, 2010

Waste and Green Living and the Web of Life

Want to do your part to change the world for the better?
Take a look at Raj Patel's Blog. It is mind fodder for finding how you can influence change, in your life and in your world.

Think change will take HUGE alterations in how we live, think we need whole sale Revolution? I'd like to suggest that you should think again. I think that the only way we can change is in an evolutionary fashion. Granted some times external events cause the "punctuated equilibrium" type of evolutionary change to appear more obvious. Cataclysmic changes (Flood, Nuclear War, The Plague, Meteor, Ice Ages, Climate Change) result in only those with the "winning genes/skill sets", or luck to be in the right location, to survive. But all change is gradual, even the change that happens in the larger global community.

These days much of what "happens to us" as a global community (part of the web of life) is done to us and for us by "Market Forces". These market forces are like a large, fast flowing river, seemingly hard or impossible to fight against. But there are back eddies were interesting things are happening. Nature teaches that even large fast flowing rivers change their flow, in features like oxbow lakes, or deltas. It's our challenge to find how to work with the large, fast flowing river of Market Forces until we figure out how to influence them so that they serve the web of life as well as they have served corporations.

So far I've figured out a few ways to waste less.

I have learned how to eliminate plastic bags and replace them with cloth.

I learned the joy of shopping at the Salvation Army or Thrift City or Goodwill. And of returning "gently used" items from our home to those same places.

I recycle, even though I have to pay $140.00 a year for it which some people consider ridiculous. But the thought of usable stuff ending up buried in a Landfill just seems stupid.

Another is to shop locally as much as possible. I shop in the following order:
Every Saturday I get produce via a Farmers Market so that my eating and actions more directly support the people who are growing the food.
I then infill with goods from Local grocers, and as much as possible local producers milk, butter, yogurt, local seafood,
I admit that sometimes economics still forces me to buy somewhere big boxish. But when I do this I buy in bulk just like our ancestors did. Think Buckboard into town type shopping trips. If I go more than quarterly I'm doing it wrong.
and only the things I need that I'm not really buying locally even when I shop at a local store. These shopping trips take no less than 4 hours. These 4 hours include the list making, it's important to know exactly what you are going for and to stay on task, travel time of course, the actual shopping, the loading and unloading of the buckboard and then storage. Storage includes lugging the stuff into place of course but it also includes separation into the smaller packets of mostly meat that we freeze for later use, just like our ancient ige age ancestors.

Raj's says that research indicates that "US per capita food waste has progressively increased by about 50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 Calories per person per day".

Not quite 3 years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Some times change feels Cataclysmic. Even though, as it turns out its been in my genes all along, but my dad died from cancer before he had a chance to be affected by diabetes. I only discovered that his brother, my uncle, had diabetes after my brother and I were diagnosed. But I digress.

Last February, after 2 years of figuring out how to eat as a diabetic, I cleaned out our pantry, condiment cupboard and refrigerator. I did this because the pantry & fridge just didn't look the way they used to. The condiment cupboard is essentially my husband's domain but since I was working on the pantry & fridge it got tackled too.

As I stood back and looked at the pantry it was quite amazing at how much space I have now that I (and we as a family) don't eat as much carbohydrates. Today there is much less pasta and rice on the shelves, but more variety (especially in the local rice types available in our area) in both. There are fewer dry cereals and even less flour and sugar for baking. Now don't get me wrong... we still have sweets. There are the boxes of brownie mix for school bake sales and a brown sugar for my husband's grandmother's famous Pillsbury Prize winning "Chewy Cake". I still bake bread. There are nuts for adding to sugar free yogurt and the perennial tomato paste and diced tomatoes. There are some canned soups, grapefruit and tomato juice leftover from hurricane season, along with some canned meats. There are lots of various condiments. My cooking husband LOVES his condiments. But all in all there is less food.

The refrigerator/freezer has slowly transformed as well. I still buy in meat in bulk and mostly from big boxes because it is cost effective. But now we separate the bulk packages into almost twice the number of portions before we freeze it. This way defrosting a package of flank steak or pork tenderloin ends up being an easy way to exercise portion control. Cook less, eat less, store less leftovers. These days we are able to look at the leftovers at the end of the week and toss any leftovers we haven't and therefore aren't going to eat (or feed to the pups) and because the portions are so small feel a bit less guilty about doing it. At the end of the week there is less food in the fridge as well.

We're trying to do what we can to change our lives and in the process changing the world by gradually changing our little corner of it. But it seems that we still have a long way to go. I think if we each do what we can in our own eddies of the global river of existence we can gradually change via market forces how we evolve.

Sometimes its hard for folks to express their spiritual teachings or personal values in their everyday world. But I to think that I'm learning to do what I can to follow Aradia's Words on Nature:

Respect Nature in all ways. Take only that which you must from Her, and remember nothing can be taken except that something be given.

Nature teaches all living things all that must be known. She teaches birds to make their nests, animals to hunt and survive, children to crawl and walk. She teaches life. Once She taught all people of Her ways, but they chose to go their own way. They chose to oppose and to control Her. But for Strega there can be no other way than Nature. A Strega must live in harmony with the Forces of Nature.


It seems that Raj wants the rest of the world to figure this out as well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heros & Symbols

Before you read the Mark Lorando article below let me do a bit of stage setting. Bacchus is one of the big weekend before Mardi Gras Parades. Bacchus has a history of having celebrity kings. Drew Brees was chosen as monarch way before the Saints won the SuperBowl. He was chosen because he embodies what is best about us all. Football was just the mechanism to bring him to our and the world's attention. His work off the football field and his ambassadorship for New Orleans was why the Bacchus organization wanted him regardless of how the Saints season ended. “Truthfully, we’re not honoring Drew for his accomplishments on the football field,” Brennan said. “His philanthropy, what he does for children…he’s an incredible ambassador for New Orleans. He’s a pillar of our community. You could not pick a better man in the city of New Orleans to be the king of Bacchus."

Even though the 2010 SuperBowl broadcast was watched by more people than ever before, if you aren't in the Gulf South you probably have no idea what the Saints winning the Superbowl means to this region. Maybe the article below will help those of you who live outside the region to begin to understand. And, during the end of the "God Year", maybe it will help you to appreciate the power of Myth and Symbols.

Hey Drew!
If the Mardi Gras Nation had more time to talk, here's what we would tell Bacchus as he passes
Sunday, February 14, 2010 By Mark Lorando Staff writer


This is what he will hear:

"Drewwwwww!!! Ohmygod!!! Ohmygod!!! Right here, Drew!!! I'm open!!! Throw me something, Drew!!! I love you, Drewwwwww!!! Who Dat, Baby!!! Will you marry me, Drew?!?!?!? I know you're married, so am I. We can work that out!!! Really!!! My husband won't mind, he's got a crush on you, too!!! Drewwwwww!!! Drewwwwww!!! Ohmygod, did you see that?!?!?!? He threw it right to me!!! You da man, Drewwwwww!!!"

But that's not exactly what the Who Dats on the parade route want to say.

It's hard to be eloquent when a float is rolling past. So little time, so much pressure -- you wait seven hours on a curb in the hopes of catching something, anything, directly from the hand of Super Bowl XLIV MVP and Bacchus 2010 Drew Brees. How can you possibly be expected to get his attention AND snag a flying doubloon AND put everything you're feeling into words in just a few, fleeting seconds?

You can't. So Drew is going to have to read between the lines. He's going to have to know that when we say all of that, what we really want to tell him is this:

Thank you.

Thank you for bringing your broken shoulder to town and rebuilding yourself right alongside us.

Thank you for teaching us how to finish strong.

Thank you for always facing adversity with your shoulders back, your head up, your upper lip stiff, your eyes on fire.

Thank you for giving us Feb. 7 to ease the pain of Aug. 29.

Thank you for reminding every woman in New Orleans, and Katie Couric, how it feels to have a schoolgirl crush. (Katie, sweetheart, we know he's a dreamboat, but try not to be so obvious next time.)
Thank you for making your beautiful family part of our beautiful city. So many star athletes parachute in for the season and catch the first flight out. You put down roots. That means a lot to us. It makes you one of us.


One suggestion: The next time you play in the Super Bowl (Feb. 6, 2011, in Dallas, see you there!), have Brittany and Baylen watch the game on the sideline on a Mardi Gras ladder. Every time you get flushed out of the pocket, he can scream, "Throw me something, Daddy!"

How cool would that be?

If we're going to go to the Super Bowl every year, we might as well give it a little New Orleans flavor.

Remember how you felt when you held Baylen in your arms after the Super Bowl? How you held him close and saw all of your hopes and dreams for the future in his little face and you cried?

Well, that's how the Who Dat Nation feels when we look at you. You are a son of New Orleans now. In you we see the best of ourselves, and a future filled with possibilities, and a pride that moves us to tears, too.

This is the part the national media always gets wrong. They see us crying, and they think it's because you have "given the people of New Orleans a reason to feel good about themselves."

If we heard that once last week, we heard it a hundred times.

But that's not it at all. We've always felt good about ourselves. New Orleans is home to some of the most fascinating, fun-loving, hard-working, resilient, creative, smart, sexy, generous, loving, tolerant people on the planet. We have some of the richest culinary, musical, artistic and architectural traditions in the world. What's not to feel good about? Do Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest look like events organized by people with an inferiority complex?

Please.

We celebrate ourselves from January to December. What we have needed is someone worthy to represent us. Someone the rest of the world can associate with New Orleans who is not on the way to jail, hell or an NFL Films blooper reel.

The national symbols of New Orleans have too often been laughingstocks and losers. We've always known we deserved better.

You're better.

That's why we get choked up. Not because we don't think we deserve you. Because we know how much we deserve each other.

So, like we said: Thank you. For representing. And for allowing us to go completely overboard about you. We know that nobody could be as good as we're making you out to be right now. But we've been a little bit hero-deprived around here lately. If it's not too uncomfortable up there, we'd like to keep you on the pedestal a little while longer.



And one last thing, Drew.

You know that fistful of black-and-gold doubloons you're holding? Right here, big boy. Come to papa. The game is on the line and I'm Jeremy Shockey. Cock that golden arm and let 'em fly. Put them where you've put everything since the day you hit town:

Right in the sweet spot.

. . . . . . .

Features editor Mark Lorando can be reached at mlorando@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3430. Comment and read more at NOLA.com/living.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unity, Teamwork, Symbology

Saints victory teaches us about unity, teamwork: A letter to the editor
By Letters to the Editor
February 10, 2010, 1:36AM


History has taught us that although it might not happen immediately, eventually the unanimity and camaraderie that pervaded our beautiful Crescent City will, more than likely, wither and die.

For several weeks, and peaking in what will, in all likelihood, shamefully come to pass as a few short hours, all the things that we so ignorantly see as separators -- race, gender, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation, to name a few -- just didn't matter.

All too soon, some slight -- real or imagined -- will redraw the lines that were erased as we cheered on our blessed "Boys."

Perhaps the Black and Gold are showing us a solution. Part of the enjoyment of watching them work their magic is the very manner in which it was worked.

They played hard. They played as a cohesive team. There was little individual grandstanding. They played like gentlemen. And, finally, they appeared to genuinely enjoy themselves -- win or lose.

Tragedy and triumph alike have shown us that we can function as that thing we hold so dear in these parts: a family.

As is usually the case, the solution is so simple that we look past it every day: We must make a choice, have faith and work every day toward our goal.

Here's to us, as we have yet another thing of which we can be proud. Here's to the New Orleans Saints! May the brotherhood, and sisterhood, they fostered not be lost.

Eric Ettinger
New Orleans

Chapter 22 - Processing Lupercus

Owen woke strangely refreshed and invigorated. He was ravenous and decided to cook a big breakfast: English muffins and over easy eggs. His favorite, well next to Eggs Benedict but he was hungry enough to do with out the sauce. He took breakfast out to the back porch and enjoyed the view. It was a beautiful February day but it edging near the 70 degree mark. As he was finishing up the 3rd egg and the second English muffin a wild but insistent thought popped into his mind. What the backyard needed was a pool! He saw the backyard with a landscaped pool fully formed in his head.

He had always wanted a swimming pool at his house. But in Pennsylvania it wasn’t that hot that often and there was also his family’s hotel with their indoor hot tubs and pool and sauna. There was enough room for a sauna too. Not that you needed one in New Orleans, all you had to do was step outside in the summer and it could feel like a sauna on some days. His first summer here had been brutal. Roger, who was a native New Orleanian and now integral to Owen’s business as well as his friend had told him that it was because he was fresh from the North and his blood hadn’t thinned yet, but it would. His second summer hadn’t been much better. A pool was just the solution to beating the summer heat and having a heated Jacuzzi for the winter seemed like just the right amount of necessary decadency. Then he caught himself. Necessary decadency. Where in the world did that come from? Then he smiled and thought New Orleans must be rubbing off on me. And Settrano smiled too because Owen was following his passion and not worrying about what anyone else would say.

He went into the office off the library and pulled out some gridded paper. He grabbed his tape measure from the truck. He only had to take few measurements to ensure that there was sufficient clearance from the property line. By lunch time he had the plans detailed on paper just as he had seen it in his head. Along the back of the house there was a bricked courtyard with a Jacuzzi with a small water fall over flowing in the pool in the far left hand corner. There were broad steps down into a rectangular pool that practically went from one side of the yard to the other. He had left enough room on the left side to allow for bamboo plantings all down the left side of the fence line to ensure privacy from the house next door. He loved living in this vibrant semitropical climate. Bamboo would fill in within the year. There were bench seats along the long sides of the pool on each side of the steps for sitting and drinking and talking while submerged. There were also broad steps along the back side of the pool that opened up onto another courtyard to the left of the great oak at the back of the fence line. On the right side of the pool there was enough walkway between the garage to allow folks to walk to the back courtyard. It was perfect.

He was glad that there was a drive way down the side of the house to the garage that could get the heavy digging equipment into the back yard. He was hoping they didn't trash the driveway. He needed to find someone to look at the oak tree and make sure that his plans wouldn’t impact the roots, but he was confident that this could be made to work. With his plans in his hands he went inside to figure out who he could get to do the work. He was convinced that he could have the pool by Jazzfest. He often had visitors for Jazzfest and a pool would be a great addition for his less tolerant of the heat northern friends and family. Eric would love it.

He spent the rest of the day reviewing his job sites and making sure everything was set for the next week and that there were no quality issues with the work done last week. His crews were great. He was grateful again that Roger such a stickler for details. Owen called Roger to find out if he knew anyone in the pool business. In the New Orleans area everyone knew somebody who knew somebody and Owen was looking for a pool contractor. The work they had done so far had been serious rebuilding. Not many folks had been looking at luxury items. But it was 2008 and by now many folks were recovered enough to think about more than just a roof over their heads and 4 walls without seeing the studs. Owen was surprised at how busy the few pool contractors were. He spent Mardi Gras day with Roger and friends and then most of the rest of the week taking his plans around to various contractors because he wanted to see how they ran their offices and then lining up visits to his home to getting estimates. By the time Thursday rolled around he had settled on a contractor. He had also decided on the paving stones and color scheme. He had placed an order to ensure that the bamboo would be ready for planting no later than the second week in May. He was enormously pleased with himself and his work plan for his luxurious back yard. He had decided that he wouldn't tell Nola about it but instead try and surprise her with it.

Meana knew that given too much time to think about it that the Lupercus experience would cause Nola's deep emotions to surface. Bellaria was sure that she could trust Nola's cool intellect to get her through. But just to be on the safe side she encouraged events at home and work so that Nola's mind was more than fully engaged. Sunday had been busy running Jamie around to parades. Every work day so far in the week had been a Monday. By the time Thursday rolled around she was more than ready for something different and the teaching session with Owen would be just the mental gear shift she needed.

As she drove to Owen's she realized that she had forgotten to call and had just assumed that they would still be able to meet. She checked her rarely used cell phone only to discover that the battery was dead from lack of use. Oh well she shrugged if he's not there or busy I'll just find a peaceful coffee shop and read for a few hours. Some alone time wouldn't hurt.

Settrano had kept Owen so wrapped up in his pool plans that he didn't realize today was the day Nola was due back until late Thursday afternoon. Early Thursday morning there was an emergency with supplies for one of the new job sites. Wednesday night thieves had broken in and taken the lumber supplies. Thankfully Roger was savvy enough to ensure that only exactly what was needed was on site. And Owen's offsite storage facility was able to restock but it took a number of runs from the storage facility to the job site to get things back on track, and the police report and re-securing the house. And putting in some fake security cameras and signs to try and thwart the thieves. He was stepping out of the shower knowing Nola was due any minute. He dressed quickly and was opening the front door as she pulled into the driveway. He grinned as he walked toward her.

"Hello big man. I wasn't sure you would be here. I'm sorry I didn't call to confirm. You look like you are getting ready to go out. Shall we reschedule?"
"Oh no." as he hooked her arm in his, "Every Thursday, you promised. I'm not going out. I just got in and showered. Come inside and we'll get some cool white wine before we start the lesson."
And she wondered again when the new student fire would burn out. But she just smiled back at him.

Owen was glad he finally had a reason to use the wine fridge. He had also stocked up on San Pellegrino and Perrier because Nola liked her fizzy water.
"Well what would you like? I have a Pino Grigio from the Columbia Valley or one from Napa Valley."
"How about if we open both and taste test? I really like the Columbia Crest Wines. I think that the Columbia Valley in Washington is making better wines than California these days. I've begun to wonder if maybe climate change is making Napa too hot. But only by tasting will you know which one you like best. "
Owen wondered what she didn't think about and smiled as he opened the wine. He got down a total of 4 glasses and poured out a little of each for both of them.
Nola smiled and said: "Try the Napa first." So they did. "Now the Columbia Crest." As Nola took her sip she tried not to smile as she waited for Owen. His eyebrows went up and he smiled. She asked: "Well which one do you like?"
"The Columbia Crest. I'll cook with the Napa."
She smiled at him and said: "Don't just agree with me because I'm the teacher."
"Oh I'm not. How do you know these things?"
"What things? Which wine I like? I told you already. By drinking it! To me the Columbia Crest wines are cleaner and smoother. The Napa wines seem to have begun to bite back. Not just this Pino Grigio. I like the cooler Russian River Valley over Napa, which come to think of it is probably why I like the Columbia Valley wines."
"I'll have to remember that."
"Owen, buy what you like. You'll spoil me."
"Is that so bad?"
And he watched as a curious look past over her face and for just a split second she got a very faraway look before she said very quietly: "I guess not, just different." Then she smiled and said "Well what shall we work on today? I'm sorry to say that I have been so busy that I did not come prepared with a lesson plan."

"Uh oh."
And she waited and wondered just how bad 'Uh oh' really was.
"The student is supposed to have questions, huh?"
She smiled and nodded and said: "It does work best that way."
"I've been so busy that you'll have to give me a minute to think up some."
"OK, since you're spoiling me with wine, I suppose I can sip and wait."
"Let's slip out to the back porch and enjoy the spring air while I think and you sip."

Owen filled their glasses and grabbed the wine and a wine bucket. They settled into the big porch swing. Nola tucked in one corner and Owen sprawled out in the other. They were strangely comfortable in the silence of the early evening. Bellaria turned to Settrano and winked at Meana as if to say: We've kept them busy all week. Your turn.

Owen finally said: "I think I understand a lot more about Lupercus now."
Nola just waited wanting to know where he was headed with his thoughts.
"The ritual was simple but powerful. But the effects seemed intense."
Nola waited some more, sipping her wine and agreeing with him silently that the effects had been stronger than she'd anticipated.
"Not dangerous, just strong. It felt good to just flow with the energies of the crowd. It felt pack-like and we were the alpha wolves."
And she waited as he worked through the memories of last weekend that his busy week had kept him from thinking about. She was a bit lost in her own thoughts as she realized that she hadn't really fully processed last weekend either. She was so deep in her own thoughts that when he reached in and gently kissed her she just kissed him back. As he moved closer she came back to teacher mode and put her hand on his chest. He looked down at her hand and said: "Thank you."
"Thank you?"
"Yes, Thank you for introducing me to the primal energies and for keeping me from getting into a bar fight."
She smiled at him then and said: "Well it seemed the least I could do. It would be bad of me as a teacher if I let my student get beat up..."
and she saw his eyebrows rise and come together as if to say 'me get beat up? It's the other guy you should be worrying about',
so she added quickly "or get hauled to Central Lock Up - yuk! for beating someone else up." Then she added seriously, "I should have been more careful. But I was having an awful lot of fun for the first time in quite some time. So, thank you for that."
"You should definitely have more fun more often." Nola just smiled gently at him and silently acknowledged that he was probably right she should. And Settrano smiled.

Owen said thoughtfully, "You certainly seem like you can handle yourself on the street and on the dance floor. Thinking back I realize now there was a strange wildness to the energy in both places. I remember you saying something like a bar fight and a kiss were 2 ends of the same spectrum. I think I know what you mean, but I think I'd like you to elaborate." And he looked down at her hand still on his chest.
She dropped her hand and he smiled at her and sat back in the cushion and waited. Settrano was thrilled with how easily Owen responded to his passions whether these were learning or kissing. He had always thought Nola needed someone around who could encourage her to freely acknowledge her own passions. Meana understood and in many was agreed but was cautious because she knew that passion can sometimes also cause pain.

Nola swirled her wine in her glass and took a sip and closed her eyes to appreciate the wine and pull her thoughts together. Owen smiled again at how Nola was able to deeply appreciate the smallest of things. She breathed deeply in and out and then began.
"We live in a modern world surrounded by all forms of energy. As moderns we think of energy mostly in terms of mechanically created and human controlled energy: the motor in your car, the battery in your cell phone, the signals on the Internet or the television and radio, the light bulb as you turn on the lamp. Very few people know how these energies truly work, are really harnessed and controlled. We take the world's energies for granted.
We are also surrounded by a natural biochemical, electric and physical energies. The air under the trees is different than the open air. The water flowing in a fountain changes the energies and atmosphere. Wolves howling create flowing energies too. People are also part of this web of life, this web of energy. Our moods and states of mind influence many things. As do our rituals. Last weekend we aligned ourselves with primal energies that are a part of the web of life all the time but that we take for granted and forget about or that we control to be part of society. We channeled and expended that energy with our romp in the Quarter."
Pausing almost as if talking herself she said, "Perhaps that was why I herded you to a different direction on the street... " then went on, "We forget that we humans can be both predator and prey. Predator and prey carry with them aggressive and adrenaline driven energies, the fight or flight instincts. But creation and destruction live side by side. The predator eats the prey to survive. Sex and death are very much interwoven as they are creative and destructive energies. When you were so close to being destructive by fighting unnecessarily, my instincts kicked in to pull you back into creative energies by kissing you."
And Owen, who had been amazed at how profoundly different Nola had sounded, caught himself saying without thinking: "So the kiss was about restoring my balance."
"Yes." she said quietly out loud, thinking to herself, now there is a nice safe answer.
But Settrano smiled as Owen, while accepting and acknowledging the answer, wasn't content to leave it there. "But I've read the rituals in the manual and I can see that the sexual energies that are there. These are subtle and in the background but were probably much more a part of the rituals of the past."
Nola waited. Owen waited. Owen out waited her as she breathed deeply and shook her head and acknowledged. "Yes the rituals of the past are more aligned with primal energies of creation and destruction. What's in the manual is a bit more watered down."
"Why?"
She sighed, shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head slightly and shook it in an 'I don't know' fashion and sighed again, "Out of respect for our more modern, or I should say American, meaning overly influenced by our Puritan ancestor's, way of life and to get published I suppose. This is why it is best to learn from a teacher rather than to just read the manual. A teacher can help you read between the lines. This is also why it is best to actually do the rituals. This allows the trappings of the modern world to fall away and to open us up to broader experiences and learning."
Owen seemed lost in his thoughts but content with that answer. Nola was reminded again just how much work new students could be but barely smiled as she acknowledged that the teacher often learned from the student as well.

They spent the rest of the evening drinking the bottle of Columbia Crest and talking about ritual and energies and how the Wheel of the Year influenced the energies that could be experienced. It was close to midnight when Nola yawned. Owen smiled at her and reached over and pulled her close to him so she could lean against his chest. "Close your eyes for just a minute. I know you have to leave. I know you don't want to be embarrassed about falling asleep. But I've worked you hard this evening and you need to rest before you drive home." He had one leg on the ground and the other kicked out along the edge of the seat along side Nola's body. And she was so tired that she just went along with him and closed her eyes against the warmth of his body. Meana looked at Settrano who smiled back as if to say: I told you so.

Owen was content and alive. He was beginning to think that he got it. That the philosophy of living that Nola was teaching him was exactly how he had always wanted to live his life. He caught himself thinking about Papa Eric and how much he wished that Nola could have met him. Papa Eric was not easily impressed. Oh he liked people and he had accepted them for who they were and as a result they liked him right back. But impressed... few people impressed Papa Eric. He had the feeling that Nola's intense awareness of all the aspects of life would have impressed Papa Eric. And he leaned over and kissed the top of her head.

He drifted off and found himself on the ridgeline near the cabin. Papa Eric was right there. "You look mighty pleased with yourself, son."
"I guess I am Pop."
"Why?"
And Owen asked himself why, then responded.
"'Cause I like where I am. I'm in New Orleans, Pop. Just like you told me I had to be. I'm doing what I want, working to restore older houses and the lives of the people who live in them after a terrible disaster. I found a woman who is teaching me exactly what I didn't even realize I've always yearned to know. I'm finally set enough in the other aspects of my life to really listen and learn. You'd like her, Pop. I think you might even be impressed with her."
"Well now son, that would be something wouldn't it."
And Owen caught himself smiling.
"But guess what, son?"
"What, pop?"
"I am impressed with her."
And at that Owen started and Nola stirred and woke up.
Nola put her hand on Owen's chest as she started to sit up. Owen involuntarily put his hand around hers. Nola realized that Owen was dozing and giggled slightly and when she did he opened his eyes.
"Well, she said with a twinkle in her voice, "I guess I can't be embarrassed about sleeping if you doze off too."
Owen smiled at her barely aware of what she was saying. Nola moved to collect the glasses and wine bucket and bottle. Owen sat straight up.
"Holy Shit."
Nola's eyes got large and she almost dropped the glasses. "Owen, what in the world! What's wrong?"
"Holy Shit!"
"OK..." she said slowly, looking around to make sure that there was nothing lurking in the yard, “...you said that already."
"Papa Eric likes you... no one better, he said he is impressed with you."
"Owen, my brother sleeptalks, I mean I've actually had conversations with him while he's been asleep. Are you really awake or are you sleeptalking?"
"No, I'm awake."
"Really? OK... stand up."
He stood up. "Woman I am awake. I probably did drift off somewhere for a moment but... Wow! Cool. I actually had a conversation with Papa Eric. I think I need to say thanks with a shot of JD on the mantle."

She just shook her head at him as they walked into the kitchen and wondered what had brought that on. As a witch she knew that the veil between the worlds was thinner than most people thought. But although they'd covered a lot of ground tonight, neither the Lasa Shrine or Papa Eric had been a part of the conversation. So she considered this quite a segue. In the kitchen Owen grabbed the bottle of JD and poured a shot. He smiled at her as if to indicate that she should follow him. She grabbed her purse from the counter and followed him into the living room and watched him set the shot glass of JD on the mantle, reach out to hold her hand and say out loud, "Thank you, Papa Eric."

And Bellaria nodded to Settrano to make sure he realized that he now had an ally on the other side in Owen's Papa Eric.

As Owen turned to her he saw that she was smiling at him but that she had her keys in her other hand and her purse on her arm.
"Aw..." sounding 10 years old. "You're leaving."
She thought as she smiled at him and shook her head like a mom with a kid who should know better but who also knows that he can get away with it sometimes and said: "Yes, I have to go to work early tomorrow." that at least this time his was a statement and not plea for her to stay. Owen conceded and hooked his arm in hers and walked her to the car. He gave her one of his bear hugs and said good night wishing her safely home.

Meana made sure that they both slept soundly and woke up refreshed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Muses & Little Girls growing up

In 10 short years MUSES has become one of New Orleans signature parades (and my daughter's favorite). This parade is a must see for her and her friends, this year despite the fact that it was COLD! and the parade had to be postponed until Friday and it was the last parade of the night. What happened at the Friday night parade celebration this year is that my daughter found her Mardi Gras Mojo. She found out that she can get the attention of people in a crowd, look them in the eye, have them react positively to her. It is a taste of what it means to be a blossoming female. It was empowering for her.

At Mardi Gras, Krewe of Muses puts its best foot forward
By John Pope, The Times-Picayune
February 10, 2010, 10:40PM


While Staci Rosenberg was watching a male colleague rollick in the 2000 Krewe of Druids parade, a thought came to her that would eventually change the way hundreds of women celebrate Mardi Gras.

“I thought, ‘That looks like so much fun, and there’s not a parade I want to be in,’” said Rosenberg, a lawyer. When she returned home, Rosenberg started calling some of her female friends, asking, “If I started a krewe, would you be in it?”

What resulted was the Krewe of Muses, a hard-charging, wildly creative, women-only Carnival club.

Thursday night, toting bags full of shoes bedecked with glitter, nearly 800 Muses will climb aboard floats for their 10th anniversary ride, reveling in the notion that their Type-A approach to everything from satire to swag has catapulted their parade to the top of revelers’ must-see list. Another 800 women are on a waiting list to ride.

“We’re all perfectionists, and we always want to outdo ourselves — and everyone else,” said Virginia Saussy, who is in charge of floats and themes. “We’re very competitive, but our biggest competition is ourselves.”


Muses’ processions have become known for their humor, whimsical marching groups that include platoons of male Elvis Presley impersonators and batonless majorettes of a certain age, jabs at politicians, and just the merest hint of naughtiness.

How naughty? For the first parade, members dressed in virginal white, and the title of the last float was “Is That It?” The next year, the final float proclaimed, “It’s Always Better the Second Time.”

“I realized after Year One that there was room for bad girls in Mardi Gras,” Kathy Conklin said with a smirk. ‘I tend to think of (the all-female Krewe of) Iris as well-behaved women. I think Muses struck a chord for not being so well-behaved.”

The sole of the parade

And of course, there are the shoes. Lots of shoes.

Riders throw all kinds of outlandishly spangled footwear — from high heels to platform shoes to boots — and marchers carry outsize, brightly colored fiber-optic outlines of high heels between floats.

Finding and decorating shoes for the parade is a year-round affair. In addition to real shoes, members toss beads with little red high heels that have become iconic — and coveted.

Originally, those trinkets were supposed to be limited to the first parade.

But shortly after Muses’ debut, when Saussy and Rosenberg were wearing red-shoe beads at a party, Saussy said a police officer told them: “You guys are going to be big. There was a brawl in a gay bar last night over a pair of Muses beads.”

“We thought, damn, this could be something big,” Saussy said. “Now we’re all about shoes.”

In addition to the beads, some members sport charm bracelets with all manner of high heels, and shoe-shaped plastic earrings dangle from earlobes. The riders of one float call themselves Soul Sistas, proclaiming their affiliation with black shirts, each of which sports a dramatic high-heel shoe with an ankle strap.

And, of course, there is Muses’ dominant symbol: a huge pump, covered with 350,000 points of fiber-optic light, in which each year’s honorary muse rides. This year’s luminary is political consultant Mary Matalin, chosen because one of the attributes of Calliope, this year’s muse, is that she is the goddess of eloquence, Saussy said.

No one is exactly sure why shoes have become such an important part of Muses, although some members suggested that it stems from an inherent female interest in footwear. Another member pointed out that the krewe’s early years coincided with the popularity of “Sex and the City,” in which Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals were obsessed with stilettos bearing such high-fashion — and high-price — names as Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo.

Foot in the door

During this year’s party, where members inspected the floats and socialized, Rosenberg sat near the big shoe’s toe. The krewe has clearly taken over her life: Rosenberg wore a Muses jacket over a Muses T-shirt over a Muses turtleneck, and on her right wrist, a black bracelet spelled out “MUSES” in big rhinestones.

At first, she said, it was difficult for anyone to take the women seriously, even after the City Council voted to let the krewe take to the streets in 2001.

Dionne Randolph, who books bands and marching groups for the parade, said it was tough to get bands to participate in the first parade because they weren’t sure whether the new krewe would be able to pay them. And because Muses paraded on a week night, Randolph knew some schools might be reluctant to let their musicians march.

But organizers knew that if they could book a major band, others would follow.

Randolph, an environmental engineer, had a distinct advantage: Her husband was a graduate of St. Augustine High School, where he played drums in the Marching 100.

“I knew I could do it,” she said — and her charm offensive was rewarded: St. Augustine signed up.

With that booking, other groups joined and have returned year after year, Randolph said, along with marching groups, some made up of men whose wives are riding.

Extending a hand

But there’s more to Muses than flashy footwear and a spiffy parade. From the beginning, the organization wanted to be active in community organizations, especially those benefiting women and children, said Conklin, who is in charge of outreach.

At first, the krewe enlisted elderly shut-ins to make riders’ masks, and they let schoolchildren design headdresses. In the wake of the destruction associated with Hurricane Katrina, Muses gave the New Orleans Police Department $50,000 to help cover Carnival overtime.

Muses members also stepped up during the organization’s darkest hour, after Latasha Bell, a 20-year-old single mother, was fatally shot while watching the 2004 parade.

One member helped pay for Bell’s funeral, Saussy said, and the organization set up a trust fund for her son, David Anthony Powell, raising about $25,000 in the first year.

The next year, when the parade passed the spot on St. Charles Avenue where the shooting occurred, “across the street was the family with a big sign that said, ‘David Anthony Powell loves the Muses,’” Saussy said.

After Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, members said there never was any doubt that Muses would roll in 2006.

Cecile Tebo, a social worker and administrator of the New Orleans Police Department’s Crisis Unit, described riding in Muses in 2006 as “mental health at its finest.”

“It was a moment to escape out of the heartache,” she said, “and to be members giving the city such a wonderful party and give people a moment when they could escape as well.”

As Muses gets ready for Thursday night’s 10th parade, Saussy had a simple explanation for the organization’s survival.

“We want all the little girls who are on the street to grow up and do what we’re doing, to perpetuate it.”


John Pope can be reached at jpope@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3317.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On our own terms

Pride in New Orleans Saints fills a city that is All-American and all New Orleans: A guest column by C.W. Cannon
By Contributing Op-Ed columnist
February 09, 2010, 3:22PM


One thing that observers of Super Bowl XLIV, here and elsewhere, agree on, is that for the Crescent City, the win is about "more than football." But what does this mean? What is it about?

Most commentators point out that the suffering wrought by Hurricane Katrina is what makes the victory especially meaningful. It's true that the Super Bowl puts New Orleans back in the media spotlight for the first time since 2005, and in far more pleasant circumstances. If nothing else, this time we had time to do our hair and select our best outfits. But a consideration of how Saints fans have reacted to their star turn on the national stage suggests that something even more than triumph over unnatural disaster is afoot. The drama of the Saints season represents nothing less than the attempt of New Orleanians to control their own representation in the national culture, and to define their membership in the American community on their own terms.

The biggest sign of this process of self-definition is a linguistic phenomenon -- yes, dat one. The very notion of a "Who Dat Nation," rather than simply "Saints fans," suggests that New Orleanians, wherever they are, wish to be considered a type of special entity within the broader "America." While this type of exceptionalism existed before Katrina, it was greatly exacerbated as a result of the storm, when admirers of the region's unique cultural aspects began to cherish more than ever what they feared could be lost in the post-K era. In a more complex sense, the idea that the "Who Dat Nation" is not limited to the New Orleans area media market suggests that New Orleans is a state of mind, a cultural attitude, more than a geographic entity.

The vernacular origins of "who dat," and the way "dat" is inserted in a variety of other formulations, bespeak aspects of a New Orleans character that fans wish to promote: working class, casual, playful, colorful. The racial ambiguity of the phrase is also significant, especially in light of post-Katrina media coverage of the city's racial difficulties.

Like so much in New Orleans culture, the chant has African-American provenance but has been embraced and claimed, comfortably and convincingly, by people of all hues.
(Nola here: and with respect to Mr. Cannon In New Orleans talking this way is more than just African American. My German grandparents and great aunts & uncles said: "des" - these, "dat" - that, "dem" - them and "dose" - those.)

While there's no question that racial animus complicates day-to-day life in the metro area, white and black residents alike chafe when outsiders emphasize this disagreeable fact too much. A mayoral election offers citizens an opportunity to vent legitimate frustrations, but for a national football championship, New Orleanians put on their best face for national observers -- who, for a tourist town like ours, we all realize are also potential paying guests.

While New Orleanians love being different, they don't want to be so different that they're not considered American at all. This is the other thread in the drama of Super Bowl XLIV. The Lombardi trophy is only available to a limited fraternity of major American cities. As much as they emphasize their own special character, Who Dats insist that this victory is evidence that this special character does not exclude them from the American community.

This, too, is a sensitive issue given the last time New Orleanians were on TV. The paradox of wanting to be different and wanting to be true-blue (or gold) American is illustrated best by the flap over the NFL's attempt to claim "who dat" as its own intellectual property. The message from the black-and-gold tribe was clear: we deserve to go to the Super Bowl and win, but we'll make our own t-shirts, thank you.

It will be very interesting to see how Mardi Gras 2010 compares to Mardi Gras 2006. Anybody know how to dye blue tarp gold?

C.W. Cannon is the author of a novel, "Soul Resin." He teaches English at Loyola University and can be reached at cwcannon@loyno.edu.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Characters Welcome

When people hear New Orleans (and the surrounding area) they think lots of things that they don't think about other places. It's a blessing and a curse.

We are a place filled with what other places might call oddity but with what we know to be character.

What do you think of when you hear "NFL Cheerleader"? I bet you it's not Chrissy Hamilton, white girl from St. Bernard Parish and graduating from the College of Pharmacy at historically black Xavier University.

What do you think of when you hear Male dance team? Betcha it's not the 610 Stompers who participated in the Buddy D Parade and then Saints SuperBowl Parade. In a city of characters, a group of ordinary men with extraordinary moves. Indeed.

These samples were both taken from the February 10th Living Section of the New Orleans Times Picayune. There are many more where these come from.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fairy Tales & Magic

Perhaps you're tired of hearing me talk about the symbolic and mythical proportions of a football team and its season. But

Here in New Orleans a political pundit has used Fairy tales to describe our 5 year journey from PreKatrina to PostSuperBowl.

And Sports Writers talk of Magic.

Given the folks talking are older males, I'd say myth and symbology still has a place in how we humans relate to the world.

New Orleans enjoys fairy-tale endings: James Gill
By James Gill
February 10, 2010, 6:24AM

Once upon a time, there was a town where gingerbread houses lined the streets and men could become king for a day, although not everyone believed it was real.

Even those who kinda liked the place figured time had passed it by. And bad things kept happening there.

After a big flood killed many of the inhabitants and drove many more away, the ones who remained seemed to have fallen under some malign influence. Nothing else could explain their bizarre behavior and affections.

They passed up opportunities to get rid of their burgomeister, who was plainly pixilated, or their man on Capitol Hill, who was just as plainly crooked.

They didn't care because they were consumed with more important matters. Their biggest fear was that the town's football team would move away. When the owner hankered for a distant land where the stars at night are big and bright, gloom would descend on the old town by the river.

Outsiders could not understand why, because the team had been letting everyone down for decades. It was not as though the team were ever going to win the biggest game of the season, for crying out loud.

Wipe the town off the map, the cry went up. Only idiots would live at such a low elevation in a hurricane zone. Besides, all the aid sent their way gets stolen. T
hey party all the time, shoot one another in the street and half of them can't read.
The calumnies multiplied. It seemed we'd need a bigger miracle than Cinderella to get out of this jam, but fortune began to smile at last.

The crook -- Dollar Bill they called him -- came up for election again and this time he lost, although maybe the inhabitants of the funny old town didn't deserve much credit for that. A new system was in place and a lot of people were so confused they didn't show up for the last round. No matter. It made no difference in the long run because old Bill soon got sentenced to prison.

No magic was required to persuade Tom Benson to abandon plans to move his team. Benson was no more saintly than any cut-throat businessman, but he got such a good deal that he discovered a deep and abiding affection for the old town.

Suddenly the Saints demonstrated that nice guys -- and they brought in lots of guys who really helped with the recovery of the old town -- could play football too.

The curse had not been lifted yet. The goofy mayor was on the way out, but he was working on a legacy of racial strife and urging citizens to keep resentment in their hearts as they went to the polls to choose his successor.

But the town was by now weary of Ray Nagin and decided the only question was who was qualified to run the town he had brought so low. The election went off without rancor at the first go, so that there were no distractions from the big game the next day.

There was no more talk of letting the town die. If football heroes could grow so dedicated to it, the world could see the old place couldn't be a dead loss after all.

Suddenly, millions wanted the town to win the big one and sat glued to their TVs.
But they don't go for Cinderella stories in Vegas, and the experts said the old town was in for a disappointment. They got that wrong and the hooting and a hollering and hugging of strangers went on in the streets for hours.

When the players got back home, they put on a parade. And, even in its darkest days, everyone agreed that the old town could organize a parade like nowhere else.

They all lived happily ever after, except for the town lawman Mr. Letten, who completely ran out of crooked officials to put in jail.

Right. It's a fairy tale.

James Gill is a columnist for The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at jgill@timespicayune.com or at 504.826.3318.

The New Orleans Saints season was "magical"
By Peter Finney, Times-Picayune
February 09, 2010, 10:28AM


FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- On the morning after, having saluted the winning coach Sean Payton and MVP of Super Bowl XLIV Drew Brees, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still was shaking his head after leaving the media center.

"You think of the story and all you do is keep coming back to the word 'magical,' " he said Monday.

All week long, it was a story told -- over and over -- how this championship was more than just a football game, how the New Orleans Saints were more than just a football team, how the success of the Saints demonstrated the "value of sports," not only to a city, but to a region.

The "magic" was the most widely watched Super Bowl, attracting in the range of 106.5 million viewers.

As the party continued -- non-stop -- in the Crescent City, Drew Brees was on his way to New York for a Monday night appearance on the "Late Show with Dave Letterman."

Sean Payton, who spent Sunday night sleeping with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after New Orleans defeated the Colts 31-17, was preparing to join his players for a parade in New Orleans today.

And that was only the beginning.

On Saturday, Tom Benson will be the Grand Marshal of Endymion.

On Sunday, Brees will reign as Bacchus.

On Monday -- Mardi Gras Eve -- Payton will go from head coach to Orpheus.

Next Tuesday, for the first time, the city will be celebrating Mardi Gras II, March Gras I having begun sometime in September, when the Who Dat Nation began serious marching to Roman Numerals XLIV.

Let me be honest.

I still have a hard time believing what I'm experiencing.

On Sunday, I arrive in the press box at Sun Life Stadium, I look down at the end zone painted black and gold, I see the letters S-A-I-N-T-S, and I'm asking myself, "is this for real?"

Then you watch a football game, having witnessed some hard-to-believe magic two weeks earlier, and, sure enough, there was more.

First you see some Peyton Manning magic, an 10-0 deficit for the Saints, and then you see some Who Dat magic: an unbelievable gamble at the start of the second half ("I wasn't worried, I was terrified," said Tom Morstead about executing a knuckleball onside kick).

There was more magic, of course.

Brees completed his last 10 passes, something exceeded in a Super Bowl only by Joe Montana. He also completed passes to seven receivers on a single drive, something no quarterback has done -- and he did it on the winning drive. Tracy Porter's game-clinching interception of a Manning pass was magic at its finest.

Think about it.

This season, Payton's Who Dats beat five teams with quarterbacks who won Super Bowls -- the Giants, Patriots, Cardinals, Vikings and Colts.

Now the Who Dats have one.

You look at Brees, and you realize, among the impressive attributes he has, one is the manner in which handles celebrity.

He mixes a warrior mentality with a genuine modesty that sets him apart from many in the business operating at the elite level.

During the week, he told the story of a phone call he once received from Manning when the Colts' quarterback was in the early stages of his NFL career -- and Brees had won a big game at Purdue.

"Peyton had already done some great things as a professional," Brees said. "He had established himself. I felt honored by the call from someone like him."

Brees meant what he was saying. From his high school days, a 6-foot quarterback had been one of the game's classic overachievers, clearing one hurdle after another, a journey that included major surgery on his throwing shoulder.

Once more Sunday, he proved to the world, at age 31, he has the credentials of a legend whose impact now carries far beyond someone who throws touchdown passes.

Drew Brees believes in destiny.

He has made all Who Dats believe in magic.

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at 504.826.3405.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Only in New Orleans

They did it.
The Saints won the SuperBowl.
The Who Dat Nation is euphoric!

If the locally made video doesn't do it for you.... (Shame on the NFL.... GREEDY.... GREEDY.... GREEDY....)

watch this short CBS segment
to see how myth and symbols help create community.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dancing in Drag with the Dead

New Orleans is and always has been full of characters. Buddy Diliberto was one of them. He was a local sports caster who once claimed that if the Saints made it to the SuperBowl he'd wear a dress on Bourbon Street. Buddy died in January 2005.

Last Sunday thousands of men, most straight, but I'm sure some gay, danced in drag down Bourbon street in his honor and in honor of the fact that the Saints made it to the Superbowl. So that's:
- years of sports casting by a local character,
- a Win in the last playoff game of the football 2009 season the Sunday before,
- one week for, Bobby Hebert the guy to who took over for Buddy D (and who probably had a good deal to do with the original reasons Buddy D made the off hand comment) to plan a parade resulting in thousands of people on the street , mostly straight men in drag.

There are more than a few theories floating around about why 5 years after his death people remembered his promise and followed through en mass.
"He's the connection people have to when they were younger, watching the games with their dad or grandpa," he said. "There are all these people whose parents lived through all the bad times but died before this day finally came. Buddy connects to all of them, because he was there from the very beginning. He's the common thread."

But I think another reason is that New Orleanians understand the importance of honoring the ancestors and maintaining the link to those on the other side. It is just a part of who we are and what we do here, naturally. We celebrate death with our Jazz Funerals and we celebrate the dead. Granted in unique ways. Last weekend Bourbon Street was one big offering on the collective New Orleans Lare Shrine for Buddy D.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mythic Proportions & Lupercus

On January 30th I posted about the Mythic Proportions of the New Orleans Saints.
Yesterday there were 2 articles in the Times Picayune newspaper about how the football team had shown that while New Orleans has a complex racial history this amazing football team and season has shown that we can and do have Racial Harmony in the Who Dat Nation.


There was one article on the Front Page
Here are 2 excerpts:

"Is it an illusion? Of course it is; it's a sporting event," he said. "But if this sense of optimism and unity is this universally shared, it's a powerful illusion and maybe it's not entirely illusionary."

"I say, enjoy the feeling, enjoy the moment and understand that if we want to feel this way for a long time, it will take a lot of work, sacrifice and compromise after the Super Bowl," he said. "One thing for sure, it's a good taste of what community feels like."

There was another article in the Sports Section. Here are a few excerpts:
"If you spend most of your professional life writing about games people play, you also will spend plenty of time listening to friends asking: Why?"

"Walk down any New Orleans street and look at the smiling faces, the Who Dat fist bumps, and you'll know this is why sports are relevant. It has the potential to touch and unite an entire community unlike anything else in our culture."

"This wasn't just a victory lap for the sports fan. It was a cathartic scream, a cheer, a dance, a hug, a high five, chest thump, fist bump, a lay-on-the-lawn-and-kick-my-hands-and-feet-in-the-air-in delirium. It was a community feeling not just of overwhelming joy, but the release of mountains of frustrations, disappointments and sorrows that had nothing to do with football."

"And during that moment, when everything else escaped, when the entire city was cheering and crying together and letting it all go, something very, very nice was left behind. Suddenly, we were all family again."

OK, since it is Lupercus, let's stop and think about this a minute. Wild Catharsis. Letting it all go. Done, like wolves howling, in a group and driven by God energies blending with Goddess energies to create community.

And as quoted by 2 'outsiders' doing a documentary, just so you know this isn't all local navel gazing.
"In fact, we actually saw people coming together over something as, in some respects, weirdly irrelevant as a sports team," he said. "But maybe that's what it takes, that sort of oddball thing to bring a town together.

"And it was very, very real. We were witnessing this cathartic moment of unity, and that was a cool thing -- and it remains a very cool thing. This football team accomplished this very cool thing."

And this folks is what myth and ritual are all about. This is what our stories and rituals done in the company of others should be all about. Our myths and rituals should seek to reach deeply into the human psyche and bring people together. The Sports Section article also speaks to why it is important to repeat rituals regularly whether every Full Moon or annually.

"I'm not saying this solves all the problems, but I believe it will bring people a step in that direction. Wherever they were before, they will be a little bit higher, a little bit further along the road than they were before the game -- and they'll stay there."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chapter 21 - Lupercus

The Lupercus ritual was one of the shorter rituals. Its power was in changing awareness and linking with the deep past. When built on other rituals and with an understanding of how we are all connected to the web of life, it lingered and left behind a primal power.

Owen had changed into dark jeans and a loosely woven brown & black sweater. The sweater enhanced his bulk. He looked formidable. Nola was dressed in black jeans a lightweight but form fitting grey turtleneck and a long red jacket. As he made his way down the stairs and looked down on her he said, “Hello there Red Riding Hood.” She smiled at him and said in her smokiest voice, “Hello there, Wolf.” And they grinned at each other. Settrano smiled at their fun. Even Tago grinned a little.

He grabbed her hand as he reached the bottom of the stairs and said “Ready?” and she said “Ready.”

He already had the bike out. It was the biggest “scooter” she’d ever seen. She’d smiled when she saw it and had thought to herself, of course he’d have the largest scooter possible. He probably didn’t even realize how large it was, because it still looked small next to him. He grabbed a helmet and handed her one. He got on the bike and reached back and patted the seat. She got on and wrapped her arms around him. He opened the gate automatically and they were off as it closed behind them. She did her best to hold on.

As they sped through the Marigny, Nola decided that a little pre-Quarter howl was in order. So she howled, “Ahh,,OOoooooooo” and Owen responded and they laughed.

They were able to park on the edge of the Quarter along Esplanade between Royal & Dauphine. Nola wanted to stop and get a Monsoon at Port of Call. So they did. The weather was perfect. The day had started off in the 30s but had warmed up to the mid 60s degrees at midday. The temperature was dropping slightly but not rapidly. It was cool and just right for walking and howling in the Quarter. They made their way down Esplanade to Bourbon. There were a lot of people making their way down Esplanade. Owen was ready to turn up Bourbon but Nola kept them on Esplanade until Decatur, by putting her hand on Owen’s elbow and tugging, shaking her head when she saw there were no people in the first block or the second. “Let’s stick with the pack.” She said. “It’s safer.” Owen raised his eyebrows looking around for trouble. Nola said, “Don’t worry, we’re fine, I’ve just learned that the rules of the jungle, or forest, work in cities too. To pay for college I worked off and on in Quarter for years as a waitress at the CafĂ© Du Monde. I’ve learned to keep an eye out for potential trouble.” Owen tucked that away to think about later as they took the long way around, down Decatur to Jackson Square. Nola howled a few times and laughed when others howled back in typical New Orleans Call and Response fashion. They were walking one behind the other, letting couples pass them by on the sidewalk when a working girl came up to Owen. Nola just smiled as Owen fidgeted and fretted trying to be polite and get away at the same time. Nola, only a few steps behind him and just slid up, hooked her arm in his and said, “Sorry sweetheart, he’s mine tonight, get your own.” She smiled as Owen’s mouth dropped open as they continued down the street. Then he asked, “How do you do that so easily?”
“What?”
“Be so aware of what is around you, move so seamlessly from one reality to another? One minute you’re guiding me away from a dangerous street then you let me break trail, then you slide up to me and claim me like a prize.”
“Sorry did I do the wrong thing? You looked like you wanted to get away.”
“Oh I definitely did want to get away I just didn’t expect you to come to my rescue.”
“Well, I figured that she was more likely to back off if she thought she saw another entrepreneur in action.” And she smiled and winked at him and started to drop her hand from his arm.
He raised his head and howled and held Nola close, his hand over her hand on his arm. He smiled at her and she howled back, causing a chorus of howls from other folks to make its way up and down the street. They made their way around Jackson Square and onto Royal and up to the Canal Street parade route. It was crazy crowded so they stood at the back of the crowd and got glimpses of the top deck of the superfloats as they turned on to St. Charles. They worked their way down Royal and zigzagged to Bourbon enjoying the celebrating crowd. Owen was acutely aware of how close Nola was to him and realized how naturally good it felt. If Grigori can be giddy Meana and Settrano were. Nola was happy, relaxed, open and was reveling in the energy, enjoying being with someone who could enjoy the energies with her and go with the flow. It had been a long time since she had been out ‘playing’. Owen was completely enjoying how relaxed and free and fun this felt. It was like being out with the guys, but better.

They ended up in new bar on Bourbon. Nola said the sister of one of the folks who worked for her owned it. They got to use the private bathroom upstairs when she mentioned this, dropping his name, to the bartender. Owen, always the gentlemen, let Nola and another female guest go first.

The bar, being new, was quieter but on a night like tonight this quiet was relative. There were still a lot of people there. Rather than waiting in the upstairs hall for Owen, Nola made her way back down to the bar. As she hit the top of the stairs she made eye contact with one of the guys on the dance floor. He and his buddy were dancing with a group of girls that were probably too young for them, but hell it was Mardi Gras. When she looked him straight in the eye he decided that she was coming on to him so when she hit the bottom of the stairs he swooped over and started to dance with her. Nola just took it in stride and joined in on the dance. She figured he’d get bored with her soon enough and move back to the younger females. As she danced with him she noticed that he had a nice smile and good dance moves. Then she noticed that the group of young girls had a group of younger guys with them and but that they weren’t quite lubricated enough to be dancing. Her dancer was nodding in approval and decided that he needed to put his hands on her. He started out on her hips which worked ok, but then he started getting a little too ambitious so she took his hands in hers and kept dancing but with a smile and eyebrow that indicated, 'Not so fast fella.' He smiled back at her, hooked the fingers of his left hand in her right and then moved his hand with hers behind her back and pulled her closer to him and turned around on the dance floor so that Owen got to see her long red coat flutter around her and her face go cold as the dancer slid his right hand up her side and his face to her neck.

Nola was a bit surprised by his strength but took it in stride. She leaned into him which caused him to loosen his grip on her fingers. She slitted her eyes and lifted her chin exposing more of her neck hoping he would try to take advantage of it. He bent down to her and slid his hand from hers and moved it up her back. This was just what she needed to open up from his embrace. It looked like a dance move. She spun to her right grabbing his left wrist with her left hand and lifted it up to stop him from using it again. As she lifted his arm she spun herself under it. This caused him to have to turn around and as he did she smiled at him and began to bow slightly as if to say thank you for the dance, when she did she bounced off of Owen. It took her a second to figure out what was going on.

Her dancer was smiling knowing he had pushed the line and acknowledging how well she had played the dance and hoping for more, when his face went flat. Now he was upset. He wasn’t sure who the big guy was but he had just slammed into someone who felt like she might be fun. He watched her turn to the big guy and take a step back and catch her balance. He put his hands on her because it looked like she might fall and this was when Nola saw Owen, standing there like a brick wall, clench his fists. And thought ‘Oh Gods, No, not a bar fight’. She stepped back into her dancer, put her hands over his and them removed them from her hips. She turned sideways so she could keep an eye on both of them and then brushed her lips on the dancer’s hand and said, “Thanks for the dance.”, which caused her dancer to smile and Owen to stiffen. Then she walked straight up to Owen and kissed him, hard. Without thinking, he responded to her kiss by wrapping her up in his arms and pulling her close. The bar erupted in clapping and whistles. Owen was so taken off guard that when she took his hand and led him to the bar he just followed.

The dancer nodded at her and smiled. The bouncer sat back down on his barstool. She moved Owen to side of the bar. The bartender was looking at her with approval. He knew that she had prevented the incident from escalating. “We weren’t letting anyone on the balcony just yet, but considering what almost just happened, take this key,” and he slid it onto the bar, “go up the stairs and use it to get your friend some fresh air and let things cool off a little bit.”

She looked at the key and then at Owen and then at the bartender and nodded, grabbed the key in one hand and Owen in the other and started up the stairs. The bartender nodded OK to the bouncer and they watched as Nola & Owen made it up the stairs. The bouncer kept his eyes on the dancer who just shrugged and turned back to the dance floor.

Owen was having an out of body experience. Where was he? What the hell just happened? They were making their way up the stairs and he came somewhat back to reality when Nola put a key in his hands and said, “Owen, please open the door, I’m terrible with keys.” He opened the doorway and stepped out on to the balcony and into the cool air. Nola followed, grabbing the key and closing the door before she leaned against it and breathed deeply.

“Well that was different. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to fend off octopus hands on the dance floor.” Owen had found a chair on the balcony and slipped into it, still not completely back to reality. “Owen, are you alright?”
“Huh?” he looked up at her, “I don’t know. What happened?”
“Well…. Perhaps I was giving off a bit too much primal energy.” He just looked up at her. “Owen, I think I’m going to go downstairs and get you a shot of whiskey. You don’t look too good.”
At this he reached up and pulled her on to his lap and said, “No. No, you are not going down those stairs without me.”
She smiled at him, got off of his lap, brushed her hand across his wrinkled forehead, then stood next to the balcony railing and said: “OK, we’ll just stay up here a little while and enjoy the crowd from above.”
Owen was still sitting in the chair. He had managed to hold onto her wrist even as she got up.
“Owen, you can let go now. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Huh?”
She sat in the chair next to him and said, “My hand, my wrist actually. You can let go.”
He didn’t let go.
“Owen…”
“Hey, you kissed me!”
She sat up and smiled at him and said, “Well, yes I did, it seemed better than the alternative which was looking like it might just be a bar fight. I hate those. So messy.”
“That guy had his hands all over you.”
“Well, not really, but he was trying.”
“You didn’t look like you liked it. It looked like he was going to bite your neck!”
“Owen, don’t be ridiculous. I bared my neck to make myself seem vulnerable. He fell for it and loosened his grip. I was working my way out of it when I bounced off of you.”
“I was ready to flatten him.”
She leaned into him and said, “I know. I saw. That would not have been good. A little too much primal energy.”
“And then you kissed me.”
“Yes, the other end of the primal energy spectrum. It seemed to work long enough to get you out of trouble.”
“Me out of trouble?! Me!? Out of trouble?! I come down the stairs to find you bent over backwards with your hand behind your back and a stranger’s hands all over you and you got me out of trouble?”
And she laughed out loud, “OK, I admit it probably looked worse than it was…” then she quieted and said “or maybe it was worse than I thought, but I wasn’t afraid until I saw you ball up your fists. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. We’ve messed with primal energies. I haven’t been out for a long while. Perhaps the combination was more powerful than I thought.” And then she thought about the fact that perhaps she hadn’t been the best of teachers.
Owen said, “Primal Energies” and pulled Nola back into his lap and kissed her.
She stopped thinking and they just kissed, feeling each other’s breath, responding to each other’s bodies as the drums from the band blocks away and crowd noise washed over them.

Owen eventually realized that they were on a balcony over Bourbon Street when he heard the cat call from below. He released her from their kiss but held her close to his chest and said, “Primal energies, indeed.” Now Owen seemed a bit more grounded and Nola’s mind was blank and whirling. He smiled at her and she put her hand on his chest and pushed weakly away. “You are very good at that.”
“Thank you.”
“Now my head is spinning.”
“Good.” and he kissed her again.
“OK. Ok Big Man, I need to catch my breath. I think we’ve worked off the initial adrenaline rush.”

And he smiled and sighed contentedly. Nola wasn’t quite sure what to do next. She was the teacher here, wasn’t she? Bellaria smiled and nodded to Meana and Settrano. Tago, who was pleased at how Nola had avoided a potentially bad situation downstairs, shook his head at them. Then Nola said, “Owen, let’s go home, the crowds are breaking up and we need to get back to the bike before they fade completely.”
Owen smiled at her and took her hand. He locked up the door to the balcony and gave the key to Nola, then walked her down the stairs. The dancer was on the floor again and smiled at them both as Nola handed the key to the bartender with her thanks. The bartender noted the smile on Owen’s face and smiled back. Owen didn’t let Nola take her hand off of his arm until it was time to get on the bike. As they walked Nola’s primal attention was focused externally, keeping an eye out for potential trouble. There wasn’t any, at least not on the street. She held on tightly as Owen sped home. He enjoyed her closeness. As her drove them home, she tried to figure out what she needed to do next. All she wanted to do was run all the way home and she hated running.

Primal energies indeed. Howling like wolves. Roaming through the French Quarter. Dancing with a stranger. Kissing Owen. What was she thinking? Then she realized. She hadn’t been. She had just flowed with the raw primal energies. The experience shouldn’t really be all that surprising. The question was now what to do with it. She knew that the ritual raised primal energy and that sex could be a part of it. But Owen was so new. Was he ready? Oh he had seemed ready. But was he ‘ritually ready’? For that matter was she? She had never really ‘fully participated’ in her own city. She had always been somewhere else geographically for rituals with a sexual aspect. Somehow it felt different in her own backyard. Weird. Who was the student here?

Owen pulled into the driveway. The ride home in the cool air had cleared both their heads. But he found he felt a little out of sorts.

Tago watched over them. He shook his head at Settrano and Meana nodded slowly to him.

Owen held the bike stable while Nola dismounted. Then he got off the bike. They both removed their helmets and Nola shook out her hair. She dug around in her pocket and found her keys. Owen watched as she took them out. As usual, he didn’t want her to leave. But he didn’t know how to make her stay. Owen smiled at her and she smiled back. Settrano looked hopefully at Meana who looked at Tago who shook his head again ever so slightly.
Owen said, “That was fun.”
“Yes, it was.”
“You’re leaving aren’t you?”
“Yes, I think I am.”
“Can I change your mind?” and he moved in closer.
“You probably can, but I think it best to end tonight’s lesson. I don’t think I’m ready to move on to the next lesson just yet.”
He leaned in and kissed her very gently and thought, ‘You’ll stay one day.’ What he said was, “Too much thinking.”
She smiled and said, “See you Thursday?”
And he hooked her arm in his and as he walked her to her truck said, “Of course.”

Tago guided her home safely despite the fact that she was so much in her own thoughts that she couldn’t even remember getting home. Meana took care of Owen. She sent him to sleep quickly, feeling warm in the embrace. He dreamed of kissing Nola on a balcony and walking with his grandfather on their ridge in Pennsylvania. Papa Eric kept trying to tell him something. But Owen was too busy floating over the trail and back to the balcony. Meana made sure he made is safely back to his bed before morning.