my timesuck

are you one of those people for whom facebook – or maybe it’s twitter or instagram or pinterest or some other social media or app – is a timesuck? to the degree that it is getting problematic? do you log in and find yourself endlessly scrolling? do you lose hours on your computer, tablet or phone this way, when you really did have other things you wanted/needed to be doing? do you sometimes stay home at night and do nothing but surf online for your evening’s entertainment? and then wonder where your evening went? (replace evening with day or weekend or whatever measure of time is appropriate for you.)

all of these things are me. well, were me, until i decided a week ago sunday that it was time for a break. cold turkey. to see if i could reclaim power over my social media use. to reclaim some of my “free” time and use it to do other things that i really wanted to be doing and somehow always felt like i didn’t have the time to do. like those two hours in the morning before i have to leave for work, while i am drinking my coffee and eating some granola? i usually read facebook. or as soon as i come home from work around 5 til i realize i haven’t eaten dinner several hours later? most likely facebook. after dinner? yep, facebook. up late til almost midnight, having a hard time winding down to get to sleep? more facebook.

it was ruling my life. and i was letting it. so i had to get a handle on it.

now maybe you don’t have this level of problem. (good for you!) maybe you think it’s crazy that i do/did. but i don’t think i’m alone or particularly troubled. i just think that i, like so many people, have been conditioned by the internet to have short attention spans and therefore get sucked into having my attention bounce all over the screen from one article to the next, one status update or photo or video to another, over and over again, in an endless loop. it’s easy for it to happen. and it’s my timesuck.

(i’m very aware that i tend to use social media/the internet as a way to tune out, to numb my brain, not be present. but that is exactly the problem i am trying to work on in my life, being more present. not so distracted. be here now.)

so after some conversations with a few close pals, last sunday night i said a brief “see ya later” on facebook, shut off notifications on my laptop, deleted the app on my iphone and set an intention to try to use my time more wisely to do other things that give me joy, and to retrain my brain to focus on things for longer periods of time.

i went six days without logging in at all or seeing any notifications and it was glorious. on saturday night, the sixth day, i did allow myself to log in very briefly to check my notifications and see if i had missed anything major. a few comments to my farewell post wishing me luck. a photo i had been tagged in. a birthday party i’d been invited to but had already missed. (sorry!) i had 75 notifications but most of them were just people liking my instagram photos which i continued to forward remotely from my instagram app. i went to the page of most of my closest friends to see what they’d been posting all week, see if i’d missed anything big. nothing much – most of them don’t use facebook as much as me. lastly, i checked my friend requests – 2 from people i’d never heard of before who i didn’t have any mutual friends with. delete.

and that was it. it took me all of 20 minutes to catch up on a week of facebook. it left me with an empty feeling. like, why in the world do i waste so much time there? what’s the big deal? how was i able to just catch up on a week’s worth of facebook in 20 minutes and not care about what else i missed? granted, i know there were probably a lot of great news/culture/politics articles i missed reading and forwarding on, and there were probably a few events i missed out on beyond that one birthday party. but generally speaking, i didn’t miss much.

(after the brief check-in on saturday, i have not logged back in since.)

the real question is, what have i been able to do with my formerly-facebook time that i wouldn’t otherwise have done? let’s see:

–i finally finished reading ta-nehisi coates’ book “between the world and me,” which i had been struggling to have the focus to finish even though i thought it was really great.

–i started reading “the people’s art history of the united states,” “five minutes to happiness,” and “who are you meant to be?” (yes i am a self-help book junkie these days.)

–i listened to the full 9 hour audiobook (in the course of one day!) of “the muralist,” a slightly cheesy but nonetheless gripping art historical fiction mystery that made me think a lot about various styles of art and the people who make that art. and about the period in time right before world war 2 when abstract expressionism was germinating. i really enjoyed it. and while i was listening to it, i was doing other things like washing all my dishes and pots and pans, vacuuming, laundry – this after listening to it all day while walking dogs.

–i listened to “why we make things and why it matters.” i’ll have a whole blog post about that one coming soon.

–i listened to a million podcasts. too numerous to detail. not just while walking dogs but also in my free time that i wasn’t sucked into facebook.

–i watched the carole king documentary, the most recent episode of downton abbey, and a 2 hour doc on the heroin problem in the u.s., all on pbs.

–i wrote. a lot. in longform! for my blogs. my,, and blogs.

–mostly, i worked on art. i cut and made a whole new stencil for my “home is where the music is, the music is my home” painting. i cut another small 3 layer dragonfly stencil for the rewards for some of my patreon patrons, and then cut, sanded and primed wood for said rewards, sprayed the stencils and then added some words by hand/brush and then added a gloss layer on top. packaged all those up and got them out in the mail.

–i also sent out sticker rewards to some of my patreon patrons.

–i hand painted a pair of shoes that had been getting dusty in my closet.

–i spent more time playing with my cats (all hail the cat dancer!), getting them some exercise and bonding with them.

–i slept more/better.

–i went out to see the folk art exhibit at the museum. on a weeknight!

–i rediscovered the joy of twitter, which oddly doesn’t end up being a timesuck for me in the same way due to its shorter word limit and general layout. (but can be equally as informative on news/culture/politics, albeit in shorter bursts.)

–i cooked a few times during the week. (i hardly ever cook anymore.)

–and i just generally felt like i was getting more done, being more productive and creative. and motivated! and i felt better about myself because of it. i found i wasn’t as concerned with what others were doing/comparing myself to them. i was happier just being me, doing me.

wow, that’s a long list! and i’m sure i forgot some stuff.

so yeah, all in all, it’s been a great experiment and i’m really glad i did it. and i hope i can keep it up, going forward. my goal is to allow myself to check in from time to time, maybe on the weekends or at night before bed, not to disappear completely from facebook. i do miss having social contact with my friends near and far and feeling connected, and it is a really useful tool in networking and getting the word out about my creative output and my pet business.  i do enjoy many aspects of facebook. i don’t want to abandon it completely.

but i can be smarter about the time i spend on it. and until i make a new habit of doing more of all these things i did when i wasn’t on facebook, i think the best way for me to deal with it is to continue to not be on it very much. i’m not sure what my perfect balance will end up looking like… but i just know i can’t go back to losing so much of my life to it.

and while i’m at it, here’s a few tips for other ways to cut down on all the noise/distraction of our daily lives, if you are really looking to reclaim some of your lost time. i did all of these and they are helping me a lot.

delete apps off your phone. maybe it’s not facebook that is your timesuck. maybe it’s another social media app or some stupid game (dots!) or the news feed app. or the stock market ticker. i don’t know. whatever it is, see if you can delete the app for a little while and just notice how much less you pick up your phone to check it. notice the absence of it and the time that opens up because of it.

turn off notifications for apps. ok, so maybe you don’t want to delete the apps entirely cuz you need to continue to be able to access them, but you’d like to be less distracted by them. just turn off notifications. or at least sounds and/or vibrations. the info will still be there, but you just have to be more deliberate about setting a specific time to check them. instead of it continuously dinging you to see every new thing that comes in, just pick a few times a day to check it, or once an hour, or whatever. take control of it instead of letting it control you!

–if you don’t want to turn off notifications for your email app but would enjoy some relief from constant notifications, consider using a subscription manager like to manage all your email lists to reduce the amount of email coming in. when i ran it, i discovered i was subscribed to over 200 email lists! many of them were relics from my past life as a music critic – i was still getting record release notifications from almost 50 publicists!  useless info that is just cluttering up my box and making me take the time to hit the delete button to clear. GONE! lets you keep the really vital stuff – bills, financial notifications, headline news announcements, anything you deem important – and then other stuff that you don’t want to unsubscribe from but can wait to read you can categorize and “roll up,” or digest. and then you get one daily digest to scan at whatever time of day you specify. (you can edit all of this at any time and you can also abandon it at any time and go back to how things were before.) it’s a great time manager and inbox clutter remover.

ok. that’s it. that’s what i’ve been doing while i haven’t been on facebook. hopefully i will incorporate a little more social activity with friends in real time too. i’ll check back in about this in a few weeks to let you know my progress.

thanks for reading!


occupy your life

poster by john fitzgerald. a gift from my dear friend dix, who knew i needed this.

poster by john fitzgerald. a gift from my dear friend dix, who knew i needed this.

yes, yes, i know, i haven’t written here since last may. of 2015. i’m a horrible blogger.

(i blame facebook. which is why, as i write this, i am embarking on a facebook fast for a few weeks, to see if i can reclaim some of my lost time from the mother of all timesucks.)

the other thing i hope to do with my formerly-facebook time is make art. this is all tied into my 2016 resolution to get back to my creative life and take charge of the life i lead. you may have seen me post about my patreon campaign on facebook or other social media or my art or pet biz blogs… but let me put that link right here in front of you once again:

so far, i’m off to a good start, with over $100 in monthly pledges within the first month of the campaign being live. i have 14 patrons who are paying anywhere between $1 and $25 a month to support my effort to change my life and schedule to get back to the business of making art. i’m super grateful and yet i still have a long ways to go.

the original goal of doing the patreon campaign was to get enough to support to help defray the cost of cutting my schedule back from full time to part time, in order to have afternoons off to work on art… to have more of a chunk of time to sink into projects, gather supplies, and just think and create. tune in to my muse. that ultimate goal is around $750 a month, which would cover cutting my afternoon daily clients. i’m nowhere near that goal yet, and yet i’m feeling the urgency to just go ahead and change my schedule anyways. it’s almost spring here in new orleans, festival season is just around the corner, and i feel all the ideas and inspiration swirling around in my head. so i want to be able to capitalize on it.

so. sometime in march, i will be going ahead and condensing my schedule. i’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet as i have to talk to my clients to work out what’s best for everyone. but i hope within a month’s time to have a few more hours in the afternoon each day to come home and treat creating like a second job and see what happens when i do.

if you’d like to support me in that effort, even $1/month is a helpful vote of confidence on my journey. and if you pledge a little more, there are rewards! like stickers and tiny art and tshirts and whatever else i come up with down the line! you will get those monthly for free! (think of it as pre-ordering!)

thanks for reading and putting up with my endless shameless plugs. and thanks to all who have supported my creative endeavors over the course of my life. i feel like the best is yet to come.

past and present lives…

it’s been a really interesting weekend, y’all.

a few weeks ago i was asked if i was interested in being interviewed by a filmmaker, drew denny, and jd samson (of le tigre/men fame) who were working on a documentary about the loss of lesbian bars and the evolution of lesbian/queer spaces around the country. i was asked because of my past work as an activist and event producer in the lesbian/queer community of new orleans. so i said yes, nervously, not exactly sure what they were looking for or what i had to offer, and quickly decided i would need to bring a few of my family of friends – who worked side by side with me on many activist groups and events over the years – along as well.

so we planned to meet up with them friday night at the neighborhood bar mag’s 940, which used to be charlene’s bar, the longest running lesbian bar in new orleans. it’s a spot that holds a lot of memories for all of us and where a lot of our collective herstory took place. unbeknownst to me/us, several of the gals from the last call: new orleans dyke bar history project and the organizers of grrlspot new orleans had also been invited. and i had told some other friends to join us as well, due to the novelty of us being out downtown in a bar on a friday evening. all of a sudden it was a lesbian/queer girl happening!

it was really fun and interesting to talk to everyone assembled and share stories about our time there at charlene’s and other lesbian bars and spaces. i pulled up some pics on my phone that i had recently found, from the night of charlene’s “last call” party in 1999, when it closed. and we learned that the staff at mags 940 is certain that charlene’s ghost “haunts” the place still, often knocking loudly on the wall in the stockroom five times. (endearingly, they keep an 8″x10″ framed photo of charlene by the front door that the owner ritualistically kisses every night.)


charlene schneider

my homegirls and i made plans to then meet up saturday with the film crew to be interviewed formally. we agreed to meet in the french quarter in jackson square, which was the gathering/step-off point for the new orleans dyke march all of the years it existed, from 1998 – 2006. (we were all organizers of the dyke march.) but after looking around trying to find a suitable spot in the square to stage the interview, and then being accosted by a groundskeeper because we didn’t have a permit to film in jackson square, we had to move the interview inside. and thanks to my pal dix (who works for dickie brennan), we ended up at dickie brennan’s steakhouse, which was not yet open and was therefore entirely suitable for a sit-down roundtable interview.

jd moderated the interview, casually asking us all about our experiences and why we thought charlene’s and all the other lesbian bars had closed, leaving a major queer city like new orleans without a dedicated lesbian space. and we all gave our varied and nuanced opinions and told many stories of our past lives in pino’s, charlene’s, rubyfruit jungle, san mone’ and at the dyke march and its after parties. (somehow we never got around to mentioning girl gang productions, the queer girl event production co-op that dix and her then-partner and my dear friend val and i ran for 3 years between 2002-2005. bummer!)

it felt good to talk about our past and honor it and the work we did while celebrating the lesbian spaces that used to exist. and it felt important for the four of us to collectively acknowledge this hard place we feel ourselves to be in right in this moment as we both mourn the loss of michfest, a moslty-lesbian space that’s been a huge part of our lives for over 20 years and which will end with its 40th festival this august, while at the same time facing the 10th anniversary of the federal flood that came after hurricane katrina, which altered all our lives forever.

on a personal note, it also felt really lovely to connect with jd, who is someone i have interviewed a few times via phone for various publications (in my former life as a music journalist), once even for a cover story in curve magazine… and who i had met a few different times in different contexts, once in brooklyn the year i was hired to dj the new york dyke march (i met up with her to get a super advanced mix of a le tigre song i really wanted to play that night at the the dyke march after party) and a few times at michfest for different reasons. jd is very down to earth, focused, and was a natural at guiding the conversation during the interview; she should have her own talk show!

and so, after this last day and a half, there’s a lot swimming around in my brain. a lot of stories and memories coming back to light. a lot of acknowledging of what we all accomplished together and what we, admittedly, failed to accomplish. and a lot of gratitude for the bonds we share, forged over nearly 25 years of activism, community-building, friendship and love.

it’s been a long time since i’ve written in this blog or anywhere other than facebook. it’s been a long time since i’ve felt like i had the ability to string words and sentenced together to make any sense. (though i’m still not sure i am doing that, but bear with me.) it’s been a very long time since i’ve felt like i have something, anything, to say. but slowly, i feel like i’m coming back to life, back to myself, back to my voice. so stick around. i hope i have more coming out of me very soon.

thanks for reading.

new tshirt design…

last night a brass band saved my life

this has been a long time coming.

i came up with the slogan “last night a brass band saved my life” years ago, when making some art for a jazz fest themed art show i used to participate in every year at a friend’s house. (she lives over in the area of the fairgrounds and so used to have an art show in her home through both weekends of jazz fest every year.)

it’s based on one of my all time favorite club dance tracks, “last night a dj saved my life” by the group indeep (1982). here’s the video:

in my life as a dj, i can’t tell you how many times i saw that slogan used on tshirts and other such merch.

so when i was trying to brainstorm ideas for new orleans music-related slogans to use in my art for the jazz fest show, i was thinking about brass bands, as groups like rebirth, hot 8, soul rebels and the pinettes are the local music groups that really move me and make me wanna dance in that same way that club/house music used to when i was a dj all those years. their music gives me goosebumps, and reaches into my heart and soul. so it occurred to me that repurposing that song title might really capture how i feel nearly every time i go out to hear a brass band in a club or catch a second line on the streets.

i’ve been wanting to make tshirts out of the design for a long time, after making a handful of stencil art pieces using the phrase. but i wanted it to be a two-color design, so it wasn’t something i’d be able to print at home on my DIY printing set up, as it’s only capable of a one-color print. so i’d been stumped for a while. i’d considered sites like cafe press or zazzle, but i’ve never felt the print quality was very good on those sites, as they are mostly digital presses, and being someone who worked for an old school silkscreen printer for 10 years, i know what a well-printed shirt should look like and hate anything less.

trying to go to a local silkscreen printer with the design would require me to front a serious amount of money, for them to make screens, to order tshirts wholesale, to pay them the labor of printing them. i don’t have that kind of money at my disposal.

but then a few months ago i stumbled across this new site called Teespring. they use actual silkscreen print shops to print their designs, and they have an easy-to-use online design tool that makes it simple to translate your ideas. they also offer a wide range of tshirt brands, styles, colors, which was also a major consideration for me, as i am not a fan of cheap tshirt brands like hanes and gildan. i like american apparel, canvas, bella, etc. and they have all of those.

the twist with Teespring is that they are a crowd-funding site. it’s like a kickstarter for your tshirt design. you design it, pick a goal of how many shirts you hope to sell, and they give you a price per shirt based on your goal, so you can then decide what price you want to sell it for, and control how much profit per shirt you make. you are basically getting the shirts printed at wholesale prices and then marking them up for retail sale via the campaign. BUT then Teespring takes care of all the orders and shipping!!! which is soooo worth it, as someone who has dealt with selling my own tshirt designs and having to process paypal orders and ship out dozens of shirts. it’s a big pain in the ass!

so. i ended up teaching myself adobe illustrator (well, enough of it to make a vector graphic), working up the design, and i have now launched the campaign. it has about four more days left and is about a quarter of the way to my goal of 50 shirt sales. so hopefully more folks will buy in and we’ll get this shirt printed. i even ordered my own!!

here’s the link to the campaign to order:

new year, hopefully more blogging.


oh it’s been over a year and a few months since i last wrote in this blog. i’m not really sure why i even keep it around, except that every great once in a while, i have a thought that i feel like expounding on and i’d like a place to do it. and, well, this is that place. the annual domain registration renewal came due a few weeks ago and i had to once again ask myself, should i just let it go? (the domain, that is.) but alas, i kept it. and here i am.

i just reread the last blog entry i made and it made me think of this new lesbian herstory archive/performance project that is getting underway here in new orleans. this seems as good a topic as any to write about right now, to try to get back in the habit of writing in this blog.

i’m not sure if the project has an official name yet, but the gals behind it are having a fundraising party to launch their kickstarter for the project, and they are calling it “HIGH DYKE.” the facebook event page for the party says the following (in case you are too lazy to click the link or just generally oppose visiting facebook):

HIGH DYKE: Kickstarter Launch for Queer Oral History Performance Project

Charlene’s. Pinstripes and Lace. Vicky’s. Les Pierres. Brady’s. These bars were once gathering spots for lesbians in New Orleans but they no longer exist. We are collecting stories of these spaces – where everything from political organizing to murder took place – and creating an archive and an original performance. Join us on Saturday February 8th as we launch our Kickstarter campaign for the project and celebrate carnival season in queer fashion. 

10PM – 2AM 
$5-20 sliding scale cover

now, i’m not involved with this project in any way, really. i’ve known about it for a while, and i’ve talked about it with my friend sara, who is one of the main gals involved (i don’t know the other two gals), but i’m a little young for the demographic they are hoping to get stories from. see, they are focusing their attention mostly on the lesbian bars of the 70s and 80s, and well, that predates my time in new orleans. i didn’t move to new orleans until 1990, though i did quickly become a regular at charlene’s bar and eventually worked there as a dj while my then-girlfriend charlotte was a bartender and manager.

so i’ve sure heard lots of stories from gals i knew then and many who are still my family of friends now. the dyke bars of my bar days in the 90s and 00s were charlene’s, rubyfruit jungle, san mone, kim’s 940 and even that fat city spot that seemed to change names every year or so (none of which i can recall right now). but i heard enough tales about pino’s and the other side, both popular lesbian spots of the 80s, to feel like i was a regular. (i think i actually did go to pino’s a few times before it closed, unless i’m making that up.) so it is with great interest that i follow this project and hope to help the gals doing it connect with women who were part of the women’s nightlife scene back in the day, as we say.

a lesbian herstory book or blog has been an idea of mine for a while now which i think i might have actually been thinking about when i wrote that last blog post. i got really excited about the idea about a year ago and then, well, life happened and i got distracted and then nothing happened other than me writing a livejournal post saying i wanted to do it. and also talking to my friend sara – same sara as above – about it. but i never acted on it. i think i was overwhelmed by the idea. but i still think it’s a good idea, and maybe this HIGH DYKE project will provide some inspiration and a kick in the ass.

i have no interest in doing any kind of performance piece around it; just much more interested in collecting stories and possibly weaving a (non-fiction) narrative from it about the herstory of women’s community in this town. and not just bar life, though i acknowledge the bars played such an integral role in creating a space for community to happen – up until the 1990s, really, when most of the dyke bars started going out of business. but i want to know about the hippie dykes and their communes, the women’s bands and folksingers, the women’s coffeehouse scene, and so much more – all the other pieces parts that connected women to other women culturally, politically, socially. i so want to hear those stories too.

but for now, i’m excited to see what sara and friends will come up with via this HIGH DYKE project. when i have more information about their kickstarter project, i’ll pass it on. in the mean time, maybe i’ll see you at the party on the 8th!

(the pic at the top of this post is the masthead from a dyke zine from the 80s, dyke digest, that some women i am friends/acquaintances with wrote. i luckily ended up with a few copies – wish i could get my hands on more!)

tripping down memory lane…

on friday night, i went to zeitgeist to see the documentary united in anger: a history of act up by jim hubbard.

the film is largely an archival repository of video of various meetings, actions and demonstrations from the original new york chapter, as well as scores of interviews with many former members – a large portion of which are now dead. it is an end result of a larger project started in 2001 by the filmmaker and sarah schulman, the film’s producer, called the act up oral history project. the film does a great job of offering a timeline of events from the beginning of the aids crisis through now, and points out the various successes and achievements of act-up’s direct action methods, which are numerous and have not gotten the historical props they deserve.

director jim hubbard was in attendance, and afterwards a question and answer and panel discussion occurred moderated by journalist/activist extraordinaire jordan flaherty and featuring members of breakOUT!, a local organization fighting the criminalization of lgbtq youth who are directly impacted by the criminal/juvenile justice systems of new orleans. sadly, i had to leave right after the film to go work, so i missed out on what i’m sure was some lively and interesting discourse. (the dog walker/pet sitter’s schedule is sometimes very inconvenient.) if someone reading this witnessed this discussion and wants to write a recap – or can link to one elsewhere online – please do so in the comments.

i have many thoughts about the experience of seeing this film.

first, my personal history with act up is actually minimal, in that i did attend several marches/demonstrations that took place in nashville, tn in the time i was in college (1985-1989) hosted by the nashville chapter of act up (which i will note was not listed in the credits as one of the cities with an active act up chapter, and i can personally vouch for the fact that there was one, at least in the late 80s). but i was never an organizer and i never even attended a meeting there. when i moved to new orleans in 1990, i also participated in a few actions that the local act up chapter here initiated, and while i did go to a few meetings and many of my friends were involved, i was not a core organizer and really was on the periphery of what that group did in new orleans. (i do remember acting as diva – those who signed up to video/photograph a demonstration for the safety and legal aid of those participating – for an action where act up new orleans shut down traffic during rush hour in the cbd in front of city hall and many members were arrested… though i can’t remember what that action was about specifically. it was the biggest and most successful demo i think act up new orleans executed and i remember being so excited to be there witnessing and documenting it.)

the greater role act up had in my life was as inspiration and education. i say with all honesty that the activists and journalists who were involved with and writing about aids and queer activism in new york city in the late 1980s when i was in college  were largely responsible for forming my political identity and who i would become as an activist and a journalist for the next two decades. though i wasn’t living in new york at the time, i visited there often on my breaks from school (one of my best friends was living on the lower east side), hoping to one day move there, and i read the village voice and outweek voraciously. (as a side note, i am only now discovering that the entire 105 issues of outweek are archived online at the link above – i donated my copies of the magazine to the lgbt community center of new orleans years and years ago. this makes me really happy!) writers like michelangelo signorile, sarah pettit (rip), donna minkowitz, larry kramer, sarah schulman, and jim fouratt, to name just a few, were my inspirations, role models and (s)heroes.

so it was with great interest and a lot of nostalgia that i watched united in anger on friday night. though i was not physically present for any of the actions or meetings depicted in the film, i vividly remember reading about many of them and following the trials and tribulations of act up new york, eventually using all this education as a blueprint for co-founding a queer nation chapter in new orleans (spurred by daring misfit robert brunet, who i’d met at a gulf war demonstration on decatur street in late 1990 or early 1991 and who would eventually become a good friend and co-conspirator) and later a lesbian avengers chapter, with my then-partner charlotte bahm and many of our friends.

maybe it’s part of my midlife crisis, but my former activist life seems to be cropping up quite a bit lately in my head and life. in september, i, along with many of my friends, were asked to march as guests of honor in the dykeadence contingent of the southern decadence parade, as an “honoring our foremothers” kind of tribute to our work with the dyke march here in new orleans and other lgbt activism. that sparked a bit of dyke march nostalgia for me, which got me realizing that so many different queer/lesbian activist/cultural things have happened in this town and haven’t really been properly documented or archived. (though i acknowledge there’s a trove of information available about the queer history of new orleans via the amistad research center housed in tulane’s howard tilton library, as well as in the newcomb institute’s archives, to which i have also donated over the years.)

but no extensive queer history of new orleans book or film or other project has happened, as far as i know. and the few books, articles, etc. i have come across never mention any of the activist things i have been involved with over the years, and are almost exclusively about gay male life in new orleans and not about lesbian life/herstory.

speaking of which, i am currently reading a book about the gay history of new orleans focused on the bar cafe lafitte’s in exile, which i’m finding fascinating and is giving me all kinds of ideas. but i will save my review on that book for another blog post after i have finished reading it. and you will be hearing more about the ideas in my head about documenting queer/lesbian life in new orleans, as i am still formulating them.

all this is to say… the movie i saw on friday night got the wheels in my brain turning even more than they already were. it was a very well done film and i highly recommend it to anyone with interest in that time period or aids activism in general. it was hard to watch, frankly, being reminded about just how many lives we have lost since hiv/aids first reared its ugly head… but it is a very important documentation of our queer history. i’m so glad i got to see it. kudos as always to zeitgeist for bringing it and the filmmaker here.

rising tide 7 is this coming weekend!

if you’ve been wondering what the hell this rising tide thing is that i keep tweeting and facebooking about incessantly, lemme try to explain – at least how i understand and have experienced it. (official rising tide history page here.)

as those who lived through it will remember, in the days and weeks and months immediately following hurricane katrina and the ensuing federal flood, many of us learned rather quickly that information coming directly from everyday citizens on the ground was more trustworthy and relevant than what the majority of the mainstream media was telling us. (the heroic coverage of the staff of the times-picayune and a few of the local tv/radio stations notwithstanding.) so we turned to the internet – bloggers and others who used various sites (for me it was the new orleans livejournal community) to document what they were seeing, hearing, doing and learning about conditions on the ground in new orleans. the internet became a lifeline for so many, and drew folks together that would have never otherwise crossed paths. (i will forever be grateful to that guy who rode katrina out in a building in the cbd with a generator and liveblogged the whole thing on livejournal – i can’t remember his online name now – but he was amazing. that was some gripping writing, lemme tell ya.)

as the weeks and months dragged on to years and folks started making their way back home, the numbers of blogs only grew, each with its own voice, perspective, story. the new orleans blogosphere experienced an explosion. some were still stuck far away, trying to get back home; some were back home trying to make sense of the mess they’d returned to; many were gutting and rebuilding; some were grappling with survivor guilt on the sliver by the river; some got involved with neighborhood organizations, schools, city planning groups, etc. to help steer the direction of the city’s rebuilding and future. most were documenting the “new normal” living in nola and used their blogs as a way to share information and effect change. (i will offer the caveat that some of these blogs most likely existed well before the events of august 29, 2005, but i and many others only became aware of them in the wake of the storm/flood.)

one of the things that happened via a group of some of these bloggers (who were also the organizers of the new orleans geek dinner) was this idea for the rising tide conference, to try to bring together those interested in the power of the internet/nascent social media to effect positive change in rebuilding of the city. to inspire more citizen activism, to pull folks in to get them talking, sharing ideas, and getting involved.

seven years later, rising tide is still basically hoping to do the same thing: draw folks in; blow their minds with brilliant speakers who run the gamut from academics to grassroots activists to politicians to culture-makers and more; get their synapses firing all while offering them a great networking opportunity; and hopefully inspire more folks to get involved in shaping the future of our city. (and, widening the circle even further, starting last year, the entire day’s programming on the main stage was and will be this year live-streamed on the web, so folks who can’t make it down to xavier can still tune in and be involved online via social media.)

now, i could go on and on about the amazing lineup of panelists and keynote speakers on the schedule this year, but really, you can read their bios and do some googling yourself to see how impressive they are. instead, i would like to underscore what a wonderfully fun and entertaining day it is, during which coffee and pastries for breakfast and a yummy taco bar from juan’s flying burrito for lunch is included. also, there is a great kickoff party the night before, friday night, at the big top, at which the tbc brass band will play – and the party is free! you don’t have to be registered for the conference to go, though we will certainly try to convince you to register while you are there. (rsvp at the above link for the party, please!)

for me, the most valuable thing i gained from going to rising tide 4, 5, and 6 (and their respective opening parties) was a whole lot of new friends and acquaintances who are all really interesting and amazing people who do wonderful things for this city via their jobs, blogs, and/or various civic/community engagements. and i learned a LOT about my city and how it is run, how to be more critical of government and politicians, and discovered so many nonprofit and community  agencies and organizations who are doing incredible work on behalf of the citizens of new orleans. and i came to really appreciate the transformative power of social media to motivate, educate and bring people together – which i kinda already knew, but got to see in real live action.

oh, and i drank a LOT of beer. 🙂

not bad for $20, huh? (i always register early – i think it even went down to $18 this year if you signed up when registration opened months ago. or if you’re a student it still is $18.) but even at $28, which is what you’ll pay right now until the day of the conference, or even $38 on the day of – it’s still a ridiculous bargain. (and just to be clear, ain’t nobody making any money off of rising tide – the organizers are all volunteer and the group is nonprofit. we just try to break even, cover our costs, and leave a little seed money in the coffers for next year and possibly for throughout-the-year additional programming as it comes up.)

so. take another look at the website with all the info about this year. if you still need some convincing, look back over the history of what this group has presented in the past six years – you can even watch the video archives of all the main stage panels from last year, from our live webcast! oh, and did i mention? we even have really cool merch – snappy tshirts and art print posters (pictured above) with this year’s “zombie paperboy” graphic theme. (you can order merch and pre-register all from one convenient URL via eventbrite.) also, some of the finest vendors of all kinds of cool stuff will be hawking their wares – including octavia books, which will have titles from our keynote speakers and some of our panelists – in the main hallway outside the conference room, for whenever you need to stretch your legs and lighten your wallets.

so what are you waiting for? yes, yes, you can just show up on the 22nd and pay at the door if you don’t mind spending the extra $10. we’re happy to take your money. but it does help us know how many to expect if you register early, and it saves you enough to buy a beer or two (or a book or some other fabulous merch).

so spread the word. and bring a friend. you won’t regret it, i promise you. (oh, and bring a sweater or jacket, cuz xavier’s air conditioning in the student center is downright frigid!)

i hope i see you there!

on michfest 2012.

one of many beautiful signs at the community center

as i sit down to try to write out a blog post (or two. or three!) on the sights and sounds of michfest 2012, i’m a little overwhelmed. i don’t really know where to start.

the round robin at the day stage

i’ve spent the greater part of the last several days since i’ve been home from working short crew immersed in the music i heard (and some i didn’t, as i wasn’t able to catch all the sets), pouring over artists’ websites, facebook pages and even myspace pages, listening to previews on itunes, and spotify, and eventually buying about $50 worth of downloads from various artists. through this process, i even managed to make a mix cd of some of my favorite songs from the artists i liked; it doesn’t feature every artist who played this year, but it’s a good sampling, and ranges from folk to pop to rap to electronic to hard and punk rock. (if you like what you hear, buy their music – support indie artists!)

krudas cubensi on day stage

i wish i did this every year. i guess back in the days when i was a music journalist for a living (i know it’s been less than 2 years since i quit doing that, but it feels like a lifetime ago), i usually managed to get someone (curve or the advocate, mostly) to pay me to do a quickie “review” of michfest, but the word counts were usually so restrictive i could barely even fit in all the names of the bands/artists, much less say anything intelligible about their performances. i don’t think i’ve ever really sat with the music of fest as much as i have this weekend. having done so, i continue to be blown away by the programming prowess of one lisa vogel, michfest producer extraordinaire. this year’s musical programming really was exceptional. stellar, even. i only wish there’d been more women there to experience it.

the media tent

but of course, the music isn’t all that goes on at michfest, and isn’t the only component to my own personal experience of fest. working takes up a big part of my time while i am there – 8-10 hours a day, in fact – and for me, work is the media tent (pictured above): producing the film program and running tech for the workshops that need a/v. (which this year largely meant powerpoint presentations, although we did also host a wildly popular karaoke intensive, presided over by dr. reverend jimmy bulldagger and tammy gaye maker!) thankfully, it seems my film programming went over fairly well and everything ran smoothly in my area. my sub-crew (shout out to bone, pooh and kari!) rocked it out fairly effortlessly, despite some early-in-the-week stresses with the new-to-me fancy rental projector.

calling the four directions during opening ceremonies

beyond the musical lineup and work, there is of course socializing – at meals, parties, dances, the stages, workshops, the crafts market, and yes, even work. consensus seemed to be that it was a low-key year, with a mellow overall vibe i’m sure aided by the relatively low attendance numbers. the weather was largely cooperative, save for a few days in a row of rain accompanied by cooler temperatures; it was otherwise sunny and not too hot most days of fest, making for an easy camping experience for festival attendees. i made a few new friends, reconnected with one very important old friend (love you e!), and generally had a lovely time getting to spend quality time with those friends who are my festival family. i didn’t fall in love or really even lust (no one was more surprised at this fact than me), but i did share some very sweet moments of deep connection with a few.

the controversial red shirts

however, i would be remiss to not mention the elephant in the room: the deep divide the festival community continues to experience over the trans issue. despite camp trans not managing to get their shit together this year to have a presence across the street from fest, the controversy raged on and the gang-like color war of the last two years re-emerged during opening ceremonies, as huge quantities of red shirts with the words “big up the female” – a quote from the “amazon women” song sung during opening ceremonies, adopted by the supporters of the “womyn born womyn” policy of fest, aka “the intention” – were given out to hundreds of women, resulting in a sea of red in the night stage bowl wednesday night.

i have to say, personally, i was taken aback by this show of red, a color usually associated with anger. it felt angry and defensive. stuck and stubborn. it in no way felt like part of any kind of dialogue. regardless of how i feel personally about the issue, it made my heart hurt for our community that the controversy has devolved to this point, and it definitely all but killed the level of woo i usually feel during opening ceremonies. i did get up and sing and dance along to the “amazon women” song, but i was largely just going through the motions, hoping i would catch the woo. but sadly, i never really did. i did hug and kiss my family of friends and wish them a happy new year, as we do, but inside, my heart was conflicted and sad.

i am not someone who takes a stance in this debate, and you can have your opinions about that or call me out if you wish – but i do truly see where both sides are coming from and i find it impossible to align myself with a “side.” i do feel the plight of trans women and believe they are women too; i personally in no way feel threatened by trans women attending fest. as is often stated during this debate, trans women have always been part of fest, attended fest, even worked fest… and it has never made me personally feel unsafe or taken away from my experience. if the policy changed, i would support it. i would still attend/work fest. and i would welcome our trans sisters. i’m not going to be sporting a “trans women belong here” shirt, but i could not look a trans woman in the eye and tell her she was not welcome on women’s land.

posted on the love note board in workerville, fliers for workshops in support of the womyn born womyn policy and the ongoing “wanted” butch/masculine woman photo project

but i also do understand where those who back the “womyn born womyn” policy are coming from, and i am a product of the group-think that came up with that concept. i have enjoyed it and relished it, learned from it and thrived in it. i have become the woman i am because of it. and i understand the continued need for that space that celebrates our shared experience of girlhood. that having been born female, raised as a girl child and having lived adulthood as a woman in this world is a unique experience, uniquely affected by patriarchy. (which is not to say that trans women have not also been horribly affected by patriarchy, but it’s a different experience.) i understand and have seen the emotional and too often physical wounds patriarchy has inflicted on many womyn born womyn. and i have read in horror too many incidents of butch or masculine-presenting women who were born women and still identify as women, who come to fest as the one place they can be themselves and be seen as women, be harassed and questioned about their gender on the land. that is unacceptable.

it is a complicated issue and i find myself agreeing with arguments on both sides. i do think nedra johnson perhaps said it best: i don’t have her exact words, but it was something to the effect of, perhaps those of you who support trans inclusion, don’t feel threatened by it, could consider yourselves more healed… that those of us who still need this womyn born womyn only space still very much need it to continue our healing. i hear that. and how can i argue with that? (nedra, if you read this, please feel free to correct me if i have misstated what you said – i’m going on memory alone, but your words did resonate with me.)

and so i remain conflicted, unable to choose a “side” or a stance. and frankly, i think the vast majority of women, particularly workers, feel similarly. i think we feel caught between the herstory of why festival was begun in the first place, that celebration and need for women-only space (and herstorically, it has been womyn-born-womyn space, for the most part)… and the evolution of the way we think about gender and sexuality, about femaleness, the reality we live in now where both are thought of much more fluidly than in the past, and where it is much more accessible than in the past for someone to alter their body physically to make it fit what they feel inside. it’s more than just being caught in between 2nd wave and 3rd wave feminism, but it is in part just that. ultimately, i find it impossible to cast judgement in either direction without diminishing someone’s humanity.

and so i also feel a responsibility to try to be one of those who tries to help those on both sides hear each other, see each other, understand each other. it kills me to see us warring like this with each other.

but i don’t know what the answer is.

my biggest fear is that this split will be a contributing factor to the ultimate demise of this place we’ve called home for 37 years now… that i personally have called home for 19 years of my adult life. economic times are tough right now, for everyone, and for all festivals and music productions, much less those having an internal political split that largely falls on generational lines. this year’s attendance was the lowest yet, and the worker to camper ratio as it stands now is unsustainable; next year will mean big cuts. again. is a festival for 2000 (instead of 6-8000 or even 4000) still worth doing? i say yes, but it might not look exactly the same as it has all these years. i feel like we’ve trimmed down as far as we can on crew and infrastructure while keeping the offerings of fest almost exactly the same; in order to have a next year, things might have to look a little different. i’m ok with that, but then, what next? how far can we trim down, how low can the attendance go, before there’s nothing left?

i don’t want michfest to end. i want us as a community to figure it out. work out our differences, somehow come to some sort of compromise, solution, understanding, answer, as we have done in the past with similarly politically hot issues like racism and s/m – though what that is, in terms of this issue, i don’t know. but most of all, i want us to be dialoguing about it, with open hearts, with love, and not anger and defensiveness and knee-jerk reactions. i feel like if we can collectively get back to that place, that best-self place that we all know from experience is what michfest teaches and allows us to be, that we can figure it out. with love and open hearts, anything is possible. i have to believe, sisters.

“where there’s love there’s a way”

whew. (deep breath.)

more soon on the music and movies of michfest 2012.


sunday morning thoughts

some weekends, i really wish i hadn’t taken on a pet sit. it is a very rare occasion since i began this business that i get a weekend day – any day, really – that i can “sleep in,” whatever that means. when i can have that feeling of total relaxation, that i don’t have some creature waiting on me to arrive to be fed or to be let out to pee, or even to just pat them on the head and make their tail wag.

that thought crossed my mind for a second this morning as i was waking up, well before my usual work wake up time of 7am. the reality is, at my age, i seem to no longer be able to sleep past 7am unless i’ve gone on a bender the night before, or stayed awake all night with insomnia or hopefully something more fun. but still, even though my body usually wakes up with the sun, there is a difference between waking up and realizing i have to get out of bed and start my morning routine because i have to attend to an animal somewhere in this town, and feeling like, oh, i can just roll over, drift off again, or fart around reading the internet on my phone, or even better yet, pick out a netflick or tv show i’ve wanted to catch up on and zone out in bed for a few hours knowing i have nowhere to be. the latter very rarely happens; but when it does, i savor it.

this morning i did have two creatures waiting on me. so i reluctantly got up, made and proceeded to eat my granola and soy milk, drank my iced coffee with almond milk, threw on some clothes (it is the weekend after all, i can shower later), and hopped on the scooter for the four and half mile ride out to the pet sit… which is actually quite a lovely ride, particularly on a lazy sunday morning with very little traffic and no rain.

this is the neighborhood where this weekend’s dog clients live:

almost seven years after the federal flood, it is so hard to drive around lakeview and not be transported back in time. it’s hard to see in this wide shot (click the pic for a larger view), but at the end of this road is the historical marker for the 17th street canal floodwall breach, that accurately attributes blame to the army corps of engineers for faulty design. that wall is what burst open, sending a tidal wave of water into this neighborhood and eventually much of city. there used to be houses there. there used to be houses on both sides of this street where there are still, seven years later, only empty lots. much of this part of lakeview still looks like this: deserted, decimated. even the blocks where folks have rebuilt, there are many many empty lots peppering the landscape of newly constructed, jacked-up 10-feet-off-the-ground houses. and there are still, seven years later, plenty of houses that look virtually untouched (though they may be gutted inside), their walls still sporting water stains, looking like a bomb hit it. and the streets are horribly potholed, sunken, broken up and cracked nearly everywhere, except for the short stretch of fleur de lis drive that got repaved. (why did they only do half of it?)

my dog clients live right down the street from this corner, and we walk past this historical marker every time i visit. it is surreal and sobering and strangely serene, all at the same time. i don’t know how these folks who live out here do it, honestly. not just in terms of fearing it could happen again, but just in having to see that every day, be triggered by that every day, all the memories of before, during, and immediately after august 29th, 2005. i couldn’t do it… though i have to admire their resiliency and determination.

thankfully, for me, my two pit bull charges for the weekend do a pretty good job of getting my mind off all these weightier subjects. maggie and buster are probably two of the happiest, most easy going dogs i’ve had as clients, and also two of the most photogenic. here’s a few instagrams to prove it:


and a few more:


so yeah. ridiculously cute. and so sweet. i didn’t get maggie’s full story, but buster was from a fighting ring. he’s got some physical issues, but oh my god, i don’t think i’ve ever met a dog who just wanted to love and be loved more. what a sweetheart. and maggie… well it took her a day or two to really trust me, but by today, she was really coming out of her shell, being playful (she likes to chase the ball and play tug of war with her rope toy) and bouncy and just a doll. so sweet. they have already become some of my favorite clients.

i had a whole ‘nother stream of thought about dogs and their love and need to be loved and my human need to love and feel loved which has occupied a good chunk of my morning… but, well, in the end, it got a little too convoluted to make for good reading. i tried cutting and pasting it over to my livejournal for a more private audience… but i lost my train of thought and, well, i’m over it.

sigh. but the gist of it is, as it turns out, i’m glad i took this pet sit this weekend. glad i got up early and rode out to lakeview on a quiet sunday morning. glad i spent some time pondering weighty thoughts and personal growth, and even more glad i spent some time throwing the tennis ball for maggie, and hugging on buster on the couch.

so grateful for this work i do. most days, i don’t really think about it; it’s just work. an endless schedule of details: appointments and dogs and picking up poop and rain avoidance and scooter maneuvering and the occasional cat or guinea pig or turtle or fish. but on some days, like today, it’s more than that. it’s therapy. it soothes my soul, engages my brain in self reflection, and ultimately, yes, helps me be a better person. (hokey as that may sound, it is true.)

that’s a pretty good reason to get up and out of bed early on a sunday morning.


quick scooter addendum/update

lucky bitches! my new scoot, my old scoot (now dix's scoot), and julie's new-to-her scoot.

yes, i know it’s been a while since i wrote that “review” of my new scooter, back in mid-april. and here we are with june knocking on the door.

since then i have put 1500+ miles on the new scoot! that’s what’ll happen when you use a vehicle for your mobile dog walking business AND your personal vehicle, though honestly, most of them are work miles. 30-40/day, sometimes more if i’m dog-sitting somewhere crosstown. (which i’ve been doing quite a bit of lately.) but she is still going strong. no problems so far with her (knock on wood). about ready to go in for an oil change and a once-over by the guys at f/x. and she still doesn’t have a name; nothing has struck me yet.

but here’s a few added thoughts after riding her full-time for over a month:

my posture is so very different on this scooter than the old one. not sure it’s better or worse; just more upright. and the reason i know this is because after riding it for a few weeks, i started noticing all my core muscles (particularly those in my lower abdomen, around my surgery area), were really sore. it’s better now as i am getting used to it, but it was a weird sensation. also, i had the occasion to ride the old scooter one last time back from the shop before turning it over to my pal dix, her new owner, and i was astounded at how hard it was for me to ride the old scooter having gotten used to the new one already. the old one is just so much lower to the ground; on the new one, i feel tall!

i figured out the turn signal thing. it took my friend julie showing me on her new-to-her yamaha vino that the switch can be pushed in to turn it off. i had no idea. i felt like such an idiot! and i actually DID read the owner’s manual yet somehow missed that. my old scoot only had a left-right switch with a middle off position. but the new scoot’s turn signal switch is really weird – i think honda could have designed this better, more intuitively – and i just didn’t realize you could push the damned thing in to turn off the signal. so now it is much better. though i still kinda hate it.

last weekend, i rode a passenger for the first time, and wow, that was harder than i thought it was gonna be! i guess i will just need to practice that more. i still don’t have a second helmet (my passenger wore julie’s extra helmet), so it won’t be a regular thing, but i need to learn how to balance myself and my passenger a little better before i’d want to drive very far like that. it was a little scary. i didn’t realize how much muscle would be involved in trying to maintain balance. also, might have been a little easier without the basket on the back so the passenger had a little more seat room.

i think i might break down and buy a topcase. i attached my old basket to the back rack via zipties (even going so far as to get stainless steel zipties, thinking they would be more heavy duty), but the rack on the back of my scooter is made of aluminum or some such metal and is oddly shaped, so even the steel zipties have been coming loose and busting. it’s still on there currently but i worry if i put something heavy back there they will all just bust and i will lose my cargo. so next time i’m feeling flush, a topcase is high on my list.

though, the enormous underseat storage really is almost enough for most grocery runs. i am not usually a big grocery run kinda gal – i can’t think that far ahead and prefer to go to the store every day or other day to get the few things i most need – so i’ve rarely even used the basket since i put it on there. so i dunno. maybe i don’t even need to have anything back there. as mentioned above, it would make passenger seating a little easier, for sure, as the basket does cramp the space a little.

and lastly, though i know this will be no surprise to anyone: i sure do like going fast. i’ve only managed to go 50+ a few times – it’s hard to have the opportunity on most city streets – but the few times i have, it’s been really fun! yay for being able to now. i think i have decided, though, that 35-40 really is the optimal speed for a scooter that size.

ok. i think that’s it for now about the scooter. until i come up with a name, at which time i will update you with that earth-shattering news. thanks for indulging me.