new scoot!

ok, so those of you who are connected to me via facebook and twitter are probably already sick of hearing about my new scooter. but, whatever. you can skip this post if you like. i just gotta rave…

so yeah. i bought a new scooter. it’s a 2010 honda elite 110. a 108cc, 8.9 horsepower, liquid cooled, fuel-injected engine. which goes 52mph before the restrictor kicks in. it’s red, which wasn’t my first choice (it also was made in all black, my preference), but i’m learning to love the red. it is eye-catching. and highly visible on the road, which is good.

i bought it used. it had 2 owners before me. a guy who only put a few miles on it after buying it new, before he sold it. and a woman, carol (who i met at the scooter rally a few weeks back), who put the rest of the 1200 or so miles on it in a little under a year, though it seems she drove it more for pleasure than as a commuter. she took really great care of it, as it still looks brand spanking new. i am aspiring to keep it looking new for as long as possible, despite the fact that i will be doubling its mileage in just a couple of months.

i still haven’t come up with a name for her yet. i guess it will come to me eventually.

she is really different than the metro, in so many ways. she rides really differently. the seat is cushier, and the suspension is impressive. hitting those potholes doesn’t jiggle me nearly as much as on the metro. i’m sure the slightly larger front wheel (12″ in front, 10″ in back, like the metro’s tires) helps absorb some of the impact. but she’s just such a bigger overall machine. the first time i sat on her, i was a little nervous. the metro is so small – it’s like the difference between riding a kids’ banana seat bike vs. an adult 10 speed or mountain bike. just better overall performance, and built more impressively.

and, yes, she goes 52mph. today, for the first time since i’ve had her, i hit 50. i opened the throttle the whole way for just a minute, climbing up the overpass on airline highway from carrollton. it was a little scary, but also not, cuz i could keep up with traffic and felt sturdier on the larger bike, not like i was gonna get run over. (i have never obviously ridden over that on the little bike – i wouldn’t dare.) but i maintained 40-45mph most of the way out airline hwy to the dmv (to register her), and it felt great. i have ridden motorcycles before – not terribly successfully, but i’ve done it – and the elite feels less cumbersome and obviously easier due to its automatic transmission, but still has the power to make you feel like you are riding a motorcycle. its pickup is truly amazing. i can smoke just about any vehicle out the gate from a stop light, leaving them in my dust. it goes from 0 to 30 really fast.

other random observations and things i like about it:

it’s got a really great, bright, wide headlight… something the metro was sorely lacking. i can actually SEE the road in the dark now.

it’s super aerodynamic. when going faster than 35, i can just feel myself cutting through the air, due to its streamlined body. i’m not as much a fan of the sportier look (over classic, retro styling), but i can see where it has its performance advantages.

also, it feels more proportional to my size. i always felt kinda ridiculous on the metro, cuz it’s such a small scoot. i mean, i reveled in that ridiculousness. i embraced my dorkiness. but the elite fits me better. i don’t feel so ginormous. in fact, i feel kind of like a badass on it.

it’s a bit of a gimmick, but i like the little anti-theft plate that goes over the keyhole. (it’s just a little piece of metal that you slide back and forth with the funny shaped piece on the end of the key.) since it doesn’t have a centerstand lock like the metro, this added bit of security makes me feel a little better about leaving it parked on sidewalks and streets all over town all day.

that underseat storage – o.m.g.! i was quite addicted to the large trunk on the metro, so it was something i was looking for in a new scoot, to have at least as much storage space. but damn, this is like twice as much! i put my helmet and all my dog-walking supplies in there and there’s still space for a small cooler for me to pack a lunch or drinks or whatever. or a second helmet would fit too. and i went grocery shopping yesterday on it and fit $50 worth (2 large reusable bags) of groceries under the seat, no problem. (there’s also a hook above the glove compartment, to hang another bag of groceries. and a lot of folks install a top case on the rear rack, for more storage. i might eventually do that.)

balance. for a bike that weighs 250+ pounds – fully 100 pounds more than the metro – and is longer and wider, it is incredibly well balanced. i keep thinking i might have to enter the slow race at the rally next year with this thing! (though i know i can’t ever beat a stretched out ruckus, but still.)

footpegs! yes, it’s kind of silly, but it’s nice, too, for my eventual passenger, that there are footpegs that flip out for usage and flip back flush against the body when not in use. it’s a nice touch.

and this is a small thing, but… i like the mirrors. not necessarily the look of them, though they suit the bike. but i like that they are wider than they are tall, and not circular. i can see more of the road behind me. and thankfully they stick out more away from the bike than on the metro, so i see less of my own shoulder and more of the cars behind me.

things i’m not crazy about but is not enough to make me love it any less:

i hate the fucking turn signal switch. first of all it’s not really easily in reach of my thumb (maybe i just have really short thumbs, but i gotta stretch!). and second of all, it’s super sensitive, so when switching it off, back to the center position, it’s very easy to overcorrect and end up switching the opposing turn signal on. it’s actually really hard to get it back to the middle position/off. it’s a stupid switch. i miss the simplicity of the switch on the metro.

i would have liked to have the control panel more backlit or at least in a lighter color so seeing it at night would be easier. (it’s black.) i also would have loved to have a trip meter. but nice that there’s a check engine light and a temperature gauge to better keep tabs on the engine.

it’s weird the way the right brake (front, disc) is super sensitive and the left brake (back, drum, and front linked) is not so much. it takes some getting used to, in order to brake smoothly, because you have to apply different amounts of pressure. but after a week, i’m getting the hang of it.

the glove compartment – eh. i find it pretty useless. not big enough to really put anything helpful in. (except, maybe, actual gloves?) do you really want to lock your wallet or anything valuable in there? i mean, yes, it does lock, but it’s kind of a flimsy lock that seems like it’d be easy to jimmy open. just seems very vulnerable. i wish it was big enough to put a drink in. what i really wish is that it was a basket like on the metro. that thing was SUPER useful – you could put anything in there. but it’s not. perhaps i’ll find uses for it eventually.

the helmet hooks. there’s 2 of them, which is nice, but they are actually under the seat. so what that means is, when you hang your helmet on it, the helmet bangs up on the side of the base of the seat, hard. i’m worried i’m going to scratch it all up. (on the metro, it was a protruding hook, out away from the seat, so the helmet hung more freely.) and with such a large underseat storage, i’m finding myself more inclined to just put the helmet back in the trunk instead of using the hook… but i guess we’ll see as i use the scoot more, if my needs change. obviously if i have a ton of stuff in the trunk, i will need to use the hook and just be careful not to scratch.

the seat itself. on the one hand, it’s so much more cushy than the metro’s seat, and wider, so my fat ass fits on it better. but since the scooter is able to carry a passenger, the seat is scooped to delineate between driver and passenger butts – the passenger rides slightly higher in back. i wish it was just a smooth level, so i could choose to sit further back on it more comfortably. i find myself doing it anyways, to give myself more leg room, but after a while i have to readjust cuz it’s funky on my butt for long periods of time, since i’m basically sitting on an incline. (i’ve seen discussions online where folks have opened up the seat and shaved the foam down so it’s smooth and then just restretched the leather across the seat. i might have to try that at some point.)

and while we’re talking about being able to carry a passenger… i love that i can ride 2-up on this thing and look forward to doing so. but i kinda hate that the official weight limit on the bike is 354 pounds. i’m a big girl, i weigh about 200 lbs, give or take a few depending on how many beers i’ve consumed in the past few days. that means my passenger needs to be lighter than me, considerably so. now, i’m pretty sure they make these limits knowing folks are going to go beyond them – and i will probably try to, as well – but really. if you’re going to make it a passenger scooter, couldn’t it have been made in such a way to at least ride 400lbs? that would be more reasonable, given the size of the average american.

oh, and i would have liked a kickstarter. granted, the automatic starter is impressive, thanks to the fuel injection. i will probably never need a kickstarter. but on the off chance that i would, it would be nice to have the option. the metro has one and i have used it numerous times when the automatic starter wasn’t cutting it. and there’s just something about the act of kick-starting your scooter, even if you don’t need to….

ok. enough of the critical review. this is all based on just one week of riding, so i’m sure some of this will be revised down the line after i get more used to the bike. or i’ll have additional entries to both the love and hate columns. but don’t get the wrong impression: just because i have a few gripes doesn’t mean i don’t still love the bike. i do love it. i think i chose the perfect bike for me, and i feel really lucky to have found carol’s bike that was so well taken care of and that she gave me such a great deal on. i feel really fortunate and grateful.

and i don’t think i’ve said this yet, but the best thing about it so far? it’s made getting up and going to work every morning REALLY fun again. with the metro, i was having a lot of stress about it’s performance and reliability, and frankly, my body was getting a bit beaten up riding it all over town 8 hours a day. but the elite – it’s just so fun. and easy. and comfy.

more pics coming soon!

*edited to add:

i added this little front chrome “grill” – they kinda look like eyes now – last night. was something i found on ebay that didn’t cost much. and i think it looks badass, even though it’s a tiny little detail. trying to do what i can to make her mine.

it’s been a minute.

um, hello world. it’s been 7 months since i wrote here last. damn. that’s a long time!

since then, all kinds of things have happened. i successfully recuperated from my hysterectomy, seemingly without any physical complication. i lost many of my dog-walking clients during my post-surgical downtime (6 weeks!), but then pretty quickly managed to pick up new ones once i got back in full swing. thanksgiving and christmas were both work days for me this year, which was fine by me. i made it through another cold and wet new orleans winter on the 49cc scooter, which rolled over 10,000 miles a few months ago. the saints did NOT win the superbowl. (boo!) i had a date, sort of. well it felt like a date  to me, but then, turns out, she wasn’t into me afterall. (oh well.) (we’re still friends.) mardi gras happened, though i did not eat nearly enough king cake this year. spring came way early. oh, and my father died at the end of february.

yeah. that was a big bummer, putting it mildly. and surprising, as though he was dealing with some health issues, no one thought that he was on death’s door. but i guess sometimes it’s just your time. and i think, emotionally, dad was ready to go. i miss him. a lot.

so yeah. i spent a week in louisville, dealing with the aftermath and seeing friends who are family, which was very comforting. and met probably the sweetest gay funeral home director ever. and my dad’s best friend and caretaker, also a sweet gay man. it was a bittersweet trip.

since then, i’ve been in a bit of a fog, which is only just now lifting. the weather has been alternately beautiful, full-on spring gorgeous, and nasty tropical storm craziness. business has been steadily picking up since the beginning of the year and right now is pretty consistently busy. (which is good.) i’ve been drinking a lot of beer. and hanging out with friends and having way more of a social life than i have in a long time. it’s nice feeling like i have a bit of a life, for a change. oh yeah, and i attended my first scooter rally, the big easy weekender, last month. it was fun.

and, through all of this, i’ve been working on trying to be a better person. and figuring out what the second half of my life is supposed to be about. (still not sure, but pondering.)

and these last two things are HUGE:

for the first time in almost 20 years, i not only filed my taxes on time but also paid them in full. did everything all legal and by the books, to the best of my knowledge. AND i paid my 1st quarter of 2012 estimated taxes at the same time. AND i got set up on a monthly installment plan to start paying off my back taxes owed. for the 1st time in a really long time, i am not running scared from the irs. (AND i have a savings account where i set aside $$ every month to accrue what i will owe for my quarterly estimated taxes for the rest of the year. so next year, paying my taxes should be a breeze!) only those closest to me can fully understand what a big fucking deal this is to me. (yes i know everyone else always pays their taxes and it’s no big deal, it’s what you’re supposed to do, but just take my word for what an enormous piece of personal growth it is for me, ok?)

and… i just bought a new scooter. the old one, the 49cc, though trusty all its life, lo these past 7 years, was just starting to show its age and the wear and tear i put on it using it for my daily work commute. reality is… 49cc scooters are not really meant to be driven like that. they have tiny little engines. i rode it hard. and though i kept up with the oil changes and other maintenance it needed, i probably could have babied the engine a little bit better had i had the money. but yeah, so it was getting to the point where i was going to have to start sinking a lot of $$ into it and, having come into a small chunk of change from the leftovers of my dad’s life insurance policy, i decided it would be a wise move for me to use that money not to fix up the old scooter which was probably just going to keep having more things that needed to be fixed, indefinitely… but rather to invest in a new scooter, something slightly larger w/a bigger engine that would hold up better under the duress of my daily schedule. (it was sadly not enough money to use to buy even a decent used car, so scooter it was.) i spent about a month researching and scouring craigslist and other online sources and had pretty much come down to one or two models of scooter i was interested in. and then the universe smiled upon me and hooked me up, unbeknownst to me, with someone i’d met at the scooter rally who was selling her scooter, one of the models i really wanted. and, well, i’ll save the rest for a separate post just about the scooter. but yeah. also really huge for me, cuz i have not ever in my life made a vehicle purchase completely on my own. i’ve bought a car with a partner, and i’ve shared cars and the scooter with partners before… and, well, my dad gave me two different cars when i was a teenager. (and my aunt gave me her old toyota camry when i got out of college.) but i’ve never researched and picked out my very own vehicle and paid for it in full and owned it outright and entirely by myself. it’s mine, all mine!

so there ya go. my last 7 months, in a nutshell. i’m gonna try to do better about using this blog to write longform more often. i like facebook and twitter for various reasons, but neither allows me to be my verbose self in the way that a blog does. and though i write a livejournal, it’s more or less private – i have a very small audience of mostly close friends there. and i write in it much more like it’s my diary. so hopefully i can figure out a way to use this blog that serves me and is also somewhat entertaining for you to read as well.

wish me luck!

so much time on my hands…

i guess it really is true that social networking sites like twitter, facebook and google+ really have taken the steam out of my blogging impulses. it’s just so much easier and faster to condense my thoughts into short little quips that can be quickly posted out to different networks of friends and associates, rather than taking the time to compose a long-form blog post here. i guess i could try to use my blog like i use social media, only have one or two line posts, but to me that’s not blogging. and would just be redundant with the aforementioned social media sites.

oh well. i guess i’ll just have to try to force myself to spend the time to write my thoughts out in longer form more often. but, well, here i am… with way too much time on my hands now due to 4-6 weeks of projected recuperation time from my hysterectomy. (i’m at 2 weeks post-op right now.) and yes, i’m finding myself spending the greater part of most days online playing around on social media sites. and watching movies on netflix. as well as the new crop of fall tv shows. i am going to be a pop culture expert by the time this recuperation is over!

but one thing i want to make myself do more of is listen to music. i did have this grand plan before surgery that i would take these weeks to start digitizing my cd collection so i could thin it out some, but, well, that hasn’t exactly started happening yet. maybe i’ll still get to it but i just haven’t been motivated. but i have been checking out online apps like spotify and google music, and have been listening to a goodly amount of new albums, both at home whilst laying about as well as on my daily walks. so lemme try to give some quick reviews in case anyone’s interested.

first, spotify. (screenshot above) i started fiddling with spotify months ago well before its integration with facebook had been launched. it has a free version that inserts really cheesy and annoying ads into your listening stream, in between every few songs, and then a paid version that is ad-free. spotify’s attraction is that they have a huge library of music that, once you join and download the software, you can access via streaming at any time, for free. it’s not every song or album ever made but it’s pretty extensive, offering you the ability to listen to music for free that you don’t actually own. it also integrates your itunes library so that you can sync your music library with your ipod, iphone or your android phone. the phone app is technically free, but apparently you can only access spotify’s free music library through it for a limited-time trial period; after that, you have to pay a premium price ($4.99/mo or $9.99/mo) in order to keep using it on your phone. (access to your own personally-owned music library continues to be free through the phone app.) my biggest complaint, though, is that i don’t find the navigation of the software all that intuitive – it’s actually kinda clunky – which frankly has made me not want to spent much time with it. the ads irritate me, too. now that it is integrated with facebook, i guess it’s kinda fun to be able to post to fb what you’re listening to all the time, and see what your friends are listening to, the whole sharing music thing, but i’m not sure that adds enough value to make it worth paying for. the jury’s still out on this one as to whether i’ll actually use it much.

mostly i abandoned spotify when i discovered google music, which offers you free storage for your itunes or other music library from your harddrive to the cloud. i think the limit is 20,000 songs at the moment, but i’m sure at some point you’ll be able to pay for more storage room. google music is still in beta testing, so there are bound to be changes and added features in the future. but for now, i really like the ability to have a backup of my own music collection – which it does automatically in the background of my computer’s normal activities – and the best part is that the music is then accessible to stream via my android phone (once you download the free google music app), turning my phone into my ipod. which is good because my ipod nano is on its last legs and now i won’t have to feel like i need to replace it. google music also offers a LOT of free music promotionally, both new and old, as i’m sure it’s hoping to eventually rival itunes and amazon as a way for folks to buy new music. but right now i’m enjoying all the free tunes that, once you add them, become a permanent part of your music library in the cloud as long as you want them. and there’s no audible ads, which is the best part to me. but it differs from spotify in that it is not offering the ability to listen to any song anytime – only the music you have paid for or otherwise accumulated (plus the various free promotional songs they offer). so for now, i’ll keep playing with google music and spotify both and see what my digital music needs really are.

i also still use itunes as my main music library on my computer, but have been using amazon mp3 to buy music more lately for some reason. wait, i know the reason – they seem to have more and better sales on new albums. like, for example, i just got the new trombone shorty album “for true” for $4.99 a few days ago. and with their free amazon cloud and mp3 player android app, i can listen to those purchases instantly on my phone too without having to upload them via google music to my library there. (really, it’s all about being able to listen to the music on my phone, now that i have a phone that can handle that task. it’s nice to only have one electronic device in one’s pocket when out walking around the park.)

i guess fans of spotify would say i could just listen to the album for free via that service… but i could only do so for free at home, not on my phone. (i’d have to pay the monthly fee to be able to do that on the phone, though it would also then give me the ability to listen to an unlimited amount of OTHER new music on my phone too, for the same price i just paid for one album.) but really, i’m old school. i know the trend with all these new apps now is for sharing and having access to files and not actually “owning” digital music, but if you’ve ever been to my house, you know i like owning music and having that level of access to things. even if it just means a burned cd version of a digital file i downloaded – i still like having that physical thing. it’s the dj in me. i know it’s old fashioned, but i’m not sure i’ll ever grow out of that completely. (though i would like to perhaps edit my physical collection down some to just the really important, sentimental things to make moving the next time around a little less horrible.)

ok, enough about music for now. but stay tuned as i hopefully get around to reviewing (i use that term loosely as this is more stream of consciousness babbling than actual journalistic criticism) some new albums i’ve been listening to, like the latest from the indigo girls, the shondes, trombone shorty and more.

 

and on to the next thing…

well, now that rising tide and the katrinaversary are over (and by the way, all the webcast videos from rising tide are now up on the site), things have calmed down a bit.

yes, we had a little excitement with tropical storm lee here this labor day weekend, but the only real result of it for me has been that i’ve spent a lot of time inside, listening to music and watching movies on netflix. it wasn’t much more than an intermittent rain and wind event. i did go to a fun birthday party on friday night, and then saturday managed to convince a friend to go thrift store shopping and to the hi hat for lunch, despite the storm… and then watched the lsu football game with @geekandahalf. much beer and tasty food was consumed both days, so then yesterday i did really nothing all day but dry out and be a sloth.

so now i have a fairly normal – though thankfully short – work week after today, and an upcoming weekend of much pet-sitting. but then, i hit the pause button for a month while i take care of some long overdue medical business.

bye bye uterus!

i can't find the origin of this photo to credit anyone but i hope they don't mind me using it

yes, i am finally getting my uterus removed. those of you who have known me for years will know how much i need this and what a relief it will be to finally have it over with. but for those who haven’t known me that long, here’s the TMI short story, which you should feel to skip over if you don’t want to hear it:

post-katrina, i started having ridiculously heavy periods and severe cramping, so i went to a gynecologist in louisville who eventually diagnosed me with uterine fibroids. (it is interesting to note that she felt it was a stress reaction due to katrina, as before k my symptoms were never this bad.)  we tried all kinds of hormonal interventions (various birth control pills, progesterone, etc.) to see if we could regulate my periods better, but none of them worked. they just made me feel hysterical, emotionally, and in most cases made the bleeding worse. western medicine’s general advice for women approaching menopause (that doc felt i was peri-menopausal, at like 39-40 yrs old) with fibroids is “wait and see” (this is actually one of the medical courses of action), as the closer you get to menopause, the less estrogen you are producing, which is theoretically and underlying cause the fibroids, too much estrogen, and so the fibroids shrink, causing you less problems. there were a few surgical options she discussed at the time, but she felt my uterus was not that enlarged, the fibroids were not that big, and so “waiting and seeing” might be the best course of action. (also, the public health system in louisville was apparently not as easy to navigate and she didn’t seem to know how to refer me into it or if i would be eligible. for whatever reasons, that seemed not an option at the time.)

so i’ve been “waiting and seeing” since like 2007, which really means, suffering as it slowly got worse. when i moved back down to new orleans in 2008, it took me a while to figure out how to get into the public health system here, since post-katrina everything was different and crazy. i finally got hooked up with the daughters of charity clinic in the bywater via artdocs, thank god, who put me through all the same tests and exams again and, surprise surprise, came to the same conclusion. why yes, you do have uterine fibroids. this time, however, a hysterectomy was their advice.

and, at least they were then able to refer me into the lsu/university hospital system. after much fretting, i qualified for the medically indigent program (since i was a starving artist at the time), and after another round of tests and exams, i had scheduled “elective” (i love that it’s elective, as if it’s like a facelift or something, not something i NEED medically in order to HAVE A FUCKING LIFE and stop losing pints of blood every month) surgery for may 19th. but after thinking about it for a few weeks, i came to the realization that i wasn’t prepared to do it then, really. i had no money in the bank, i had *just* started the dog walking biz and had barely gotten into a routine with it, and had no one as backup, and didn’t really have anyone lined up to take care of me after surgery when i would need it. i ended up having to cancel the surgery, and decided to wait til the summer was over, giving myself a chance to rectify all these issues and be better prepared.

and so, here we are. it’s the end of the summer. i have worked my ass off all summer, often working weeks at a time straight through, long hours, in order to save up about a month and a half’s worth of rent and bills to cover the time i’m down. i’ve got someone lined up to fill in for me to cover all the dogs while i can’t do it. and my ex is coming back to town for 10 days to help take care of me post-surgery til hopefully i can be up and moving around. so i think everything is good to go.

i had doctor appointments both thursday and friday this past week where they took a ton of blood from me for various testing, gave me a couple of gyn exams, a pap smear, and sent me over to the hospital for a chest xray and an EKG. all of which, apparently, say that i am really healthy, other than some slight anemia due to this very issue.

so surgery is scheduled for wednesday the 14th. i will spend most of the 12th dealing with admit paperwork at the hospital, and then have a fun-filled day of physical prep on the 13th, which i am *not* looking forward to. but it will be worth it, as i am more than happy to be saying goodbye to my leaky, malfunctioning angry uterus that i never really needed in the first place. the hope is to keep my ovaries, cuz i’m not done with them yet. i want my hormones! and they are going to try to do the surgery laparoscopically first, though they could always have to switch procedures once they start. but i will remain hopeful that it proceeds without complication and i have the smallest incisions possible, which means the shortest recuperation time. (four weeks is likely, though, at least.)

i have never had any kind of surgery before, save for my wisdom teeth being surgically removed when i was 16. i’ve never even broken a bone. and i have a severe dislike of hospitals, leftover trauma from the sickness and death from cancer of my mother when i was a child. (i spent way too much time in a hospital from ages 7-10.) so to say i am a little anxious is an understatement. but, again, it will all be worth it to have this horrible affliction dealt with finally. i will be so happy to not lose 8-10 days of my life every month anymore, and to hopefully eradicate my anemia once and for all.

so yeah. for the next month and a half, i might not be around online much. or, since i will not be able to do much physically, i might end up being around A LOT, since typing on a computer might be the only thing i can muster, after the pain meds clear my brain. i guess we’ll see.

but that’s what’s up with me for the foreseeable future. wish me luck!

katrinaversary #6

as most of you know, i spent most of my k+6 anniversary weekend setting up for and helping to execute the rising tide conference at xavier on saturday. due to too much beer and not enough sleep, i can’t really tell you much about the content of the panels or the speakers. (i look forward to the video archive of the main stage, which is being uploaded incrementally as it is encoded.)

what i can tell you is that we had better attendance than ever before, more vendors, more sponsors, more organizers and more programming than ever attempted before (the addition of our 2nd room, tech school, was very successful). the venue was bigger and better. and it was all pulled off fairly flawlessly. everyone who attended seemed to be having a good time. we drank our way through two kegs of abita amber! folks were engaged. our twitter stream was very active. overall, i think we achieved what we set out to do. i’m so proud to have been a small part of it and honored to work with all the amazing folks involved in the organizing of the event.

yesterday, after taking it slow, recuperating a bit, i spent part of my afternoon finally watching harry shearer’s the big uneasy. it’s available now for download via amazon and itunes for only $3.99, which i was more than happy to pay to be able to watch it in my jammies in bed on my laptop. (i love technology.) i kept missing all the screenings that happened here in nola since it came out, so i’m glad i finally got to watch it. it’s really well done, though it’s a LOT of information. but, hey, it’s a documentary. but they do a really excellent job of synthesizing all that info and clearly spelling out the clusterfuck that was/is the levee failure/the us army corps of engineers. if you haven’t seen it, you should spend the time and money to watch it. you’ll come away with a much greater understanding of exactly what happened and could so easily happen all over again.

i intended to spend some of my day also reading my friend jordan flaherty’s book floodlines, which i finally (forgive me, jordan) got around to buying at rising tide on saturday. but after watching the movie and attending to a few pet-sitting duties, it was already time to go watch the saints game over at ponce de leon stadium (what we call my friends jen and mary ann’s living room, where my gang of gals tends to watch all the saints games). i barely made it through the game, i was so tired. but it was nice that we won. there were a few moments i didn’t think we would. (i will get back to floodlines, don’t worry.)

and so today is back to work day. but it is also a day to remember. not to dwell and get caught up in the melancholy, but just to pay respects and pause for a moment to be personally so grateful to everyone who held me up, took care of me, sent me money or clothes or pet supplies, loved me, and helped me through that difficult time. i try not to be someone who dwells on regrets, though i do wish i’d done some things differently during that time. but i can’t be too hard on myself. we all react how we’re going to react under duress. we do the best that we can with what we’ve got. and hopefully we make it through. and i certainly made it through. and now i am back in my town, in my neighborhood, with a new and prosperous life and work. i have much to be grateful for, and i couldn’t have gotten here without going through all of that.

so today i give thanks and pay my respects. and send my love out to all in the new orleans diaspora, wherever you are.

rising tide is TODAY!

so if you’re not there or on your way there, to the rising tide conference, you can tune in right here and watch the live webcast:



i’ll be sad to not be meeting/seeing you in person, but you can chat me up via twitter and/or join the conversation using the #RT6 hashtag.

rising tide conference, part 3

here is a map of the xavier university campus. rising tide will be in the red building, the student center, and free parking is available in the green highlighted areas.

this will likely be the last post i make about the rising tide conference that is quickly approaching next weekend, though perhaps i will do a post-event wrap-up. but there’s just a few more things i want to say on this subject.

#1 – if you haven’t read my previous two posts, please do so. this will help you understand what the hell i’m talking about. in short, it’s a grassroots conference about new orleans that has its origins in much of the blogging and social media that bloomed after the events of august 29th, 2005. i am one of the many organizers, for the first time this year. (i attended the conference twice in 2009 and 2010.)

#2 – as the conference did last year, we are collecting donations of food for the second harvest food bank. please bring some canned goods or other non-perishables to the registration table saturday morning. (or even if you are not attending, you can still donate – just email me and i’ll be happy to pick it up or arrange a drop-off.) last year, we were able to collect 254 lbs of food plus $120 cash, which was enough together to provide 700 meals to our hungry neighbors in southern louisiana. with the economy having only gotten worse since last year at this time, these donations are needed even more. so help us beat last year’s total.

#3 – i don’t think i’ve pointed this out before, but the rising tide conference is a non-profit venture, legally-speaking. none of the organizers get paid; we are all volunteers. and most of us pay the registration fee just like everyone else to help offset the costs. we put in a lot of effort and debate about the registration fee, trying to keep it affordable/accessible while still having it cover our base costs for providing breakfast and lunch, as well as all the other associated costs of putting on an event of this magnitude. personally, i think it’s amazing bargain.

#4 – so when i tell you about my fourth point here, our shiny new live webcast of the event, and tell you that it is free to anyone who wishes to tune in via our website on the day of the event, please don’t think we’re greedy when i also add that we would love it if those who utilize and enjoy our live stream could kick us a few bucks to help defray the costs. we plunked down some serious change to hire a professional to produce our webcast, so even a few dollars would help. there’s an easy “donate” box on the registration page for the event and there will also probably be some kind of pop-up or screen or button that comes up when you tune in to the webcast. (not only would a dollar or two help to defray costs, but it would help give us an idea of how many folks are actually using the webcast – like a virtual registration, as it were.) however, let me stress again that there is no required fee to use the webcast – it is free. we want to share the proceedings with as many folks as we can. so please spread the word far and wide that folks can tune in that day online. the more, the merrier.

#5 – most importantly, we’ve all been asked by some of the organizers to repeat this: did we mention, there’s BEER? all day, at the event. abita, even. (one of our many generous sponsors.) and a full cash bar, provided by another of our sponsors, artist, inc. it has been an integral part of every rising tide event since the beginning, and just cuz we’re on a college campus (xavier) doesn’t mean that tradition will end. (there will of course also be non-alcoholic drinks as well.)

#6 – also, though the conference itself is a one-day thing, there is a pre-party, a kind of kick-off to the weekend that’s an informal meet-and-greet for conference attendees, panelists, speakers and organizers. this year it will be held at tracey’s bar in the irish channel, on friday evening before the conference. we’ll have some food from tracey’s awesome kitchen and will be commandeering a corner of the bar for our festivities, though it’s not a private party. (the bar will be open to the public.) it’s a great way to meet some of the folks involved in a relaxed atmosphere. come. bring your friends. introduce yourself.

#7 – and then, after the conference is over on saturday, there’s of course an after-party, which will this year be at the rendon inn, conveniently a stone’s throw away from the xavier campus where the conference will be held. again, another way to continue the conversations begun at the conference and further network with attendees and participants. so between the pre-party, the all-day conference, and the post-party (and the day of recuperation on sunday!), it becomes more of an all-weekend event.

all of this, above, is stuff to try to entice you to come, to get you there. but i hope that many of you reading this will be even more motivated by the actual purpose and content of the event.

we all want a better new orleans. we are all living still, and always, in the shadow of what happened six years ago. in many ways, we have come so far, made such progress, worked hard, survived and even overcome the cruel hand we were dealt. and we did this by coming together, helping each other, working together for a common cause, to rebuild our lives, our neighborhoods, and our city. but we still have far to go. plenty more work to do. really, we’ve only just begun. we have to keep it going. so let’s take the time this upcoming weekend, on the sixth anniversary of that fateful weekend that changed all our lives, to come together once again, get to know each other, really listen to each other, assess where we’ve been and where we are going, celebrate the culture that binds us together and defines the special je ne sais quoi of our town, and discuss together what lies ahead, our future.

i personally cannot think of a better way to commemorate the katrinaversary than this.

*edited to add: two of our organizers appeared on wwl-tv this morning to discuss the conference. you can see the segment here.

but wait, there’s more…

…about rising tide.

this post is basically an addendum to the last post, which gave an overview of the rising tide conference i’m involved in organizing this year. these last few weeks before the conference – it’s on august 27th, katrinaversary weekend, so coming up real soon – are very exciting, as we nail down all the final details and pull together all the loose ends. so let me tell you about some of the latest developments.

first, i’d like to show you the artwork for this year’s art poster, created by greg peters:

as of now, you can order fancy art prints of this image from the website via our eventbrite page. you can also buy them at the conference, but it’s a limited run so you take your chances that there will still be some left. if you like it, i’d order one now.

this one, below, is the one you’ll probably start seeing up soon around town. it’s the ad version (as opposed to the art version, above) and not for sale, just for promotional use:

and then there’s the t-shirt, which is also for sale on the eventbrite page and will be at the conference day-of:

pretty cool, eh? i think i’ll have to be getting one of these.

next, there are a few new panelists worth noting who have been added to the food panel, including: chris debarr, chef at green goddess, formerly of the delachaise, long time new orleans blogger and food person; adolfo garcia, chef & owner of popular new orleans restaurants rio mar, la boca, a mano, gusto, and the newly-opened high hat cafe and ancora pizzaria; and alex del castillo, chef and owner of taceaux loceaux. these additions, along with the already-announced peter thriffley and rene louapre, food columnists at offbeat and authors of what is arguably new orleans’ best food blog, blackened out, as well as todd price (freelance writer, featured contributor to the times-picayune, former food editor at offbeat magazine, columnist at new orleans living magazine, contributor to zagat survey new orleans, fodor’s new orleans, and blogger at a frolic of my own) make for a very impressive panel, indeed. should be making all you foodies salivate. i can’t wait.

and, also, though the details are still being worked out, it appears this year’s rising tide conference will not only be video and audio archived, but also live webcast, so that those of you not in new orleans (or who for other reasons can’t make it in person to the conference) can tune in and at least see the keynotes and the panels as they are happening. it’s not the same as being there in person – for me, the best part of rising tide is the networking and personal connections made face to face (not to mention the kick-ass lunch you’ll be getting from j’anita’s!) – but it is a way to at least take part in the conference virtually if there is no other option. as in years past, a rising tide hashtag (#RT6 this year) will allow folks to use twitter to converse about the proceedings, so the livecast will add a whole new dimension to that. more details coming on that as we work them out.

one more thing i wanted to touch on is the ashley awards. we’re still taking nominations, so please give it some thought and nominate your favorite new orleans blogger. we’ll be making a decision next week so there’s still time.

i’m sure there’s other stuff i’m forgetting, but i guess i’ll just blog more if i remember.

anyways… if you haven’t yet registered… what are you waiting for? it’s only $30 if you register in advance (it goes up to $35 or $40, i can’t remember which, on the day of the conference if you pay at the door), and registering early helps us figure out the numbers for our food orders and bar and other logistical stuff like that. registration does include breakfast pastries and coffee plus an awesome lunch by j’anita’s, which alone would be worth the $30… without even figuring in the all-star panel line-up, keynote speakers, tech school, a brass band performance and best of all, the infinite networking possibilities.

and, of course, a chance to get involved and be part of the betterment of our beautiful city.

join us, won’t you?

rising tide

this post will probably be redundant to a lot of folks who actually know me in real life, as most of you probably know i am involved this year with organizing the rising tide conference here in new orleans and will know much of what i’m about to say.

but in case you don’t – or even if you do but you might not know much about rising tide – keep reading.

i first became aware of the rising tide conference whilst displaced in louisville, kentucky post-levee failure. i, like so many, found the internet to be my lifeline during and after the chaos of katrina and the federal flood. i’ve never spent more time online in my life than in those days and weeks and months during and after the storm, and then for years, really, while living in kentucky before being able to return to new orleans – all in an effort to remain connected, informed, engaged in what was happening back home. interestingly, the new orleans livejournal community was actually probably my most important lifeline, but beyond that was the nola.com forums, the mid-city neighborhood association listserv, and then so many of the bloggers, journalists and citizen-activists i came to know, love and trust who were writing about their experiences being here, and who, turns out, were some of the folks who started the first rising tide conference in 2006.

i was not able to physically attend the conference until 2009, however. the timing just never worked out right for me to be in new orleans when it was happening, being so close to my return from my annual trek to the woods of michigan. but i was aware of the conference, and read about it online and followed their website and blog, and always thought to myself, “i really want to go to that conference when i get back to new orleans.” i knew they were my people.

when i did finally return, i was hopeful that attending would be the way to regain a sense of connection again after being away. before katrina, i was an activist, a fairly high profile one in the queer community but also a lower-profile one in the peace/anti-war/progressive/leftist community. i felt engaged with my town, my community; i knew what was going on and i was at least trying to make a difference. but after katrina, after being away more or less for 3 years, i felt very disconnected. though i’d been following along virtually and had even been commuting back and forth almost monthly for my art biz (and even kept my apartment in midcity for the first year and a half), it wasn’t the same as being here full-time, experiencing all that everyone went through living here in that hellish time. i’d lost touch with a lot of friends and acquaintances, and all the activist networks i’d had before were totally decimated. (or at least my connection to them was.) so i was hopeful that going to rising tide would be the way to get back to being involved in the conversation, being part of the dialogue about the city and the recovery, and a way to meet new folks and reconnect with folks i knew but had lost touch with.

and though it didn’t happen instantly that weekend after the first rising tide i attended in 2009… it was the first step for me on that path. it took me a while – i move slow, and life threw me some other curveballs – but here i am now, in 2011, on the organizing committee for that very same conference. (my role hasn’t been a big one, but i’ve made it to some of the organizing meetings and am slated to be on the a/v crew for the day-of production.) after attending two rising tides in 2009 and 2010- with, of course, a lot of other stuff/life in between – i have made hundreds of new twitter and facebook and even google+ friends/acquaintances, many of whom are so very eloquent and passionate about this city and its recovery and who enrich my life daily with their insights; i feel more in tune with the political and civic goings-on in new orleans; i’ve made many important business and personal connections online and in real life; and most importantly, i feel like i’ve reconnected with that part of myself that wants to be involved, be part of things, be a good citizen-activist. those 3 years away were very depressed years of isolation and loneliness for me, so now, being back involved with something that is trying to make a difference, trying to spark conversation and dialogue and bring people together… well, i just feel like some semblance of my old self again. which is something i haven’t felt in a really long time and have missed feeling.

all this is to say… i want you to consider coming to rising tide. take a look at the itinerary, the panels, the speakers. we’re a bit culture-heavy this year (i.e. david simon of treme as a keynote speaker, a brass band panel, a food blogging panel, etc.), which i think is a nice change of pace from the heavy political years past. i’m proud to say two friends from my activist circles are serving as panelists this year – progressive journalist extraordinaire jordan flaherty will be on the social media/social justice panel, and louisiana bucket brigade founder anne rolfes will be on the post-oil-disaster louisiana coastal health panel. and this year for the first time, my friend and kindred crafty/geeky spirit mallory has put together tech school, a series of break-out sessions that are how-to kinds of presentations on social/new media topics like kickstarter, photography on your blog, wordpress for bloggers, intellectual property rights for bloggers, etc. also, our event space this year at xavier really rocks – i just saw it for the first time yesterday and i’m totally impressed. it’s such a step up from the venues of past years. we have a lot of great vendors this year; of course, a bar, because what new orleans event would be complete without alcohol; and lunch by j’anita’s! the friday night pre-party will be at tracey’s, an awesome venue choice, and the after party will be at one of my favorite hangouts, the rendon inn.

if for no other reason, come to rising tide for the networking and socializing… because a greater group of geeky, smart, caring, entertaining, new-orleans-loving folks you will not find anywhere. if you walk away with nothing more than a handful of new friends, then, well, isn’t that worth $30?

chances are you will walk away with a lot more, though. come, be part of the conversation.

michfest film line-up, finally!

many of you know, and i think i’ve mentioned before, that i am the curator (or programmer) of the film series that is shown annually at the michigan womyn’s music festival. i’ve been an assistant coordinator in the “one world” area – which is the combined workshop area and media tent/movies under the stars area – for 13 or 14 years. (i can’t remember exactly when i started!) i basically manage the media tent, which houses all the a/v equipment to show the films both inside the tent (the morning series, on wed-sat of fest) and outdoors on the big drive-in-like screen (mon/tues/sun nights of fest). we are a crew of usually four who cover all the hours necessary to pick-up, load-in, and set-up all the equipment, show the films while also managing the audience in the tent, and break down and store all the equipment. we also assist in providing a/v needs for workshops in the afternoons. it can be a grueling schedule, depending on the workshop media needs and of course the weather, which is not the friend of electronic equipment in the woods. it can be quite harrowing. it is not a glamorous job; it’s a lot of lifting of heavy things, fiddling with wires, managing a million details, dealing with people, and then a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. but my crew (some who return year after year, and others who are fresh faces each summer) pull it off with skill and finesse every summer. i love my crew and love my job at fest.

(sadly i will not be performing my job this summer, as i’ve decided the doggy biz is too booming for me to get away. but my crew will i’m sure be fine without me. i will miss them, and fest in general, horribly. i’m trying not to think about it.)

many years ago, i offered my opinions on the film programming (when someone else was doing it) and was given a shot with one of my co-workers to co-curate first one day of programming and then later, the whole film series. she and i co-curated for several years, but for the past few it’s been just me, on my own. it was definitely easier doing it with someone else, but i have managed, and hopefully gotten better at it. and as much as i bitch about the process while i’m in it – groaning about all the bizarre or just plain awful entries we get – i am always so pleased when i get to the end and make my final decisions about all the really amazing films i get to show the eager audience at michfest. i love being able to support women/feminist/lesbian filmmakers, and i love being able to expose the gals who come to fest to some films they might not otherwise have the chance to see.

so with this preface i now offer you this summer’s line-up. i will be so sad to not be there this year, to not get to see the looks on women’s faces while watching these films, and not get to hear their immediate feedback. but i am still honored and pleased to be able to be part of the process, and hope those in attendance enjoy my selections:

Michfest 2011 Film Program

MOVIES UNDER THE STARS!!!

Monday Night

Boobatary – Leah Shore (3 min) USA
Cried Suicide – Lauren Palmigiano (14 min) USA
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls – Leanne Pooley (84 min) New Zealand

Tuesday Night

Married In Spandex – Allison Kole (56 min) USA
Eleanor Waits – Tessa Millesse (59 min) Australia

Sunday Night

Lady Pochoir – Petra Clever (38 min) Germany
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same – Madeleine Olnek (75 min) USA

MORNING PROGRAM

Wednesday Morning

A Crushing Love: Chicanas, Motherhood and Activism – Sylvia Morales (58 min) USA
Unveiled Views: Muslim Women Artists Speak Out – Alba Sotorra (52 min) Spain

Thursday Morning

Queer/Contradictions: modes of silence/modes of resistance – Casey Miles (8 min) USA
Letters – Barbara Center (10 min) Canada
Sweatshop Cinderella – Suzanne Wasserman (27 min) USA
I Am – Sonali Gulati (71 min) USA/India

Friday Morning

She’s The One That I Want – Samantha Nye (6 min) USA
Flow – Christina Choe (8 min) USA
Early Mourning – Annetta Marion (12 min) USA
Strong & Dreaming – Avery Kalapa (13 min) USA
Thunder: A Film About Ferron – Bitch + Billie Jo Cavallaro (75 min) USA

Saturday Morning

La Petite Salon – Caroline Le (15 min) USA
Tracks – Deana Williams (25 min) USA
Atomic Mom – M.T. Silvia (79 min) USA