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Posts Tagged ‘Bonnaroo’

I must start by saying that the last ten days have been an absolute whirlwind. The day after my last entry (a Thursday), I said my final goodbyes to my school and most of my co-workers, got in my car, and started driving towards Tennessee. I was thankful for the opportunity to spend hours alone on the road as I was sure it would offer an opportunity to process the countless overwhelming events and goodbyes of the past weeks. I am someone who needs time to process things. I generally take at least a day to really be able to talk about a good movie. I usually don’t like to judge music on the first listen, and I rarely am able to fully engage with profound moments or changes all at once. It takes me a while to process. It seemed that the 8 hours of driving from New Orleans to Manchester would provide ample time to process- to understand everything that had just happened and everything that was changing.

And, I suppose, on some levels, I was able to do this, but not very much. Awaiting in Manchester was the famed Bonnaroo festival in all its glory. There was simply not time to process. Instead, I chose to be present in the magnificence and chaos and beauty that is Bonnaroo. I can’t begin to explain to you this festival. You must see it with your own eyes to truly understand the magnitude of the whole thing. For a weekend, I was surrounded by wonderful things- music, art, food, and games. The music was an incredible balance of personal favorites (i.e. Neko Case, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Wilco), all-time greats (Tony Rice, Bruce Springsteen, David Grisman), and new interests/pleasant surprises (Raphael Saadiq, St. Vincent, Brett Dennen). The weekend was spent with great friends (Danielle and Bryan), which really just added to the fun and, once again, the overwhelming nature of the event

An event of this magnitude, in and of itself, needs time to be processed, and compiled with my need to process events from before, I welcomed the 8 hour return trip to New Orleans with the idea that I could finally reflect on my life changes and the epic event I had just experienced.

And I’m pretty sure I started on this reflection. I really am. But before I knew it, I was back in New Orleans and Sophie and I were having dinner at Lola’s, a personal New Orleans favorite. Then the next two days were spent frantically packing and preparing to actually leave New Orleans. Instead of really taking this as time to look back on the last two years, I chose to be present as I spent my last days in New Orleans, in my house and room, and with my beloved roommates. This was a good choice. My last night in New Orleans was spent much like my first nights in New Orleans- surrounded with friends, music, and celebration. CJ, Justin, Joel, Bri, and I played games, laughed, and sang well into the night.

Here are a few pictures, set up as a timeline to illustrate that my roommates and I have always managed to make our own fun:

This is the first time we all hung out.  We started cheers that filled MinuteMade Park.

This is the first time we all hung out. We started cheers that filled MinuteMade Park.

We ruin every party by playing rapping games.  Luckily, CJ and Justin are good at rapping.

We ruin every party by playing rapping games. Luckily, CJ and Justin are good at rapping.

After many rousing cheers, we caught a majestic Horse Monthly Calendar at Mardi Gras- a coveted item, indeed.

After many rousing cheers, we caught a majestic Horse Monthly Calendar at Mardi Gras- a coveted item, indeed.

We were responsible for other people's children...

We were responsible for other people's children...

The next morning I woke up, picked up Sophie, and we hit the road. Surely, a road trip is a great opportunity to process/reflect/understand everything that had happened. Surely this would happen.

And, to some extent, on some level, this happened. But not a lot. Rather, I chose to be present in what could only be described as a wonderful but strenuous and forward-looking road trip. The goal was to arrive in Denver on Friday night after leaving Thursday morning. This is a twenty-one hour drive, which could easily be done but the pit stops and site-seeing must be kept to a minimum. But being present was a great choice on this road trip. I felt incredibly close to Sophie, the sky throughout Texas is incredible and somehow bigger than anywhere else I’ve ever seen, and that stretch of I-25 between New Mexico and Colorado is overwhelmingly beautiful. And, in case you were wondering, we not only made it in time to help Aileen move on Saturday morning, but we made it in time for Kyle’s goodbye get-together on Friday night.

If anyone can explain to me why the sky in Texas looks so big, I would really like to know.

If anyone can explain to me why the sky in Texas looks so big, I would really like to know.

And that essentially brings us to now- with me writing to you from my parents house, with Sophie asleep next to me. And never fully have I processed the incredible change I have gone through. I think thats okay, though. The time between goodbyes and endings to now has been filled with far too many celebrations, beautiful sights, good songs, and togetherness to not allow myself to be present. I refuse to miss this.

Prior to moving to New Orleans in June, 2007, I was an avid follower of Dan Baum ‘s New Orleans Journal in the New Yorker. If you don’t know Dan Baum, I strongly recommend you check out his writing. I think he is a very good writer and is always able to eloquently describe the elusive essence of New Orleans. He book “Nine Lives” is the best example of this. Anywho, he had been writing from New Orleans for two years and that very same summer his Journal had been canceled. Aside from his time in New Orleans, he lives full-time in Boulder, CO. I remember distinctly reading his last Journal entry from a hotel room in Amarillo, TX, as I made my journey from Colorado to New Orleans. He wrote this entry from a hotel room in Houston, TX, as he made the exact opposite journey from New Orleans to Colorado.

I don’t know if our paths crossed exactly but I wrote him that night in Amarillo and told him about our swapping of places and thanked him for his writing. He wrote me back promptly and thanked me for reading his column.

While I was as present as possible on my trek away from New Orleans, I carried his last column prominently in the front of my mind. Mr. Baum wrote of feeling in exile outside of New Orleans and missing it dearly, or “knowing what it means to miss New Orleans.” He wrote of feeling shocked by the sanitary, wide-open, corporate-run world outside of New Orleans, and how somethings feels amiss. It was, however, his focus on New Orleanians ability to be present in a moment that stuck with me as I drove- to not be driven or controlled by the dollar or the clock, but to rather simply be in a moment, for better or worse.

This lesson, this skill, is the face of the parts of New Orleans that I carry with me. It represents what I learned in New Orleans, the wondeful people that I knew and loved there and the times I was present- up to the very last night and into the wee hours of that morning. And as Dan Baum said, “It took me a while to figure out that in New Orleans the future doesn’t really exist. There is only the present.”

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Tomorrow is the last day for students to attend school. Teachers are supposed to stay for Friday and the next Monday in order to get rooms cleaned, finish paperwork, and turn in media resources, but in a rare display of efficiency, I have everything done now- Wednesday. I am writing from my empty classroom with the exception of twelve barren desks in the middle of the room, left for the students who are still coming to school regularly. No homemade motivational posters of Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, and Muhammad Ali. No schedule written on the board. No ungraded papers, lesson plans, or student work on the wall. Its a stark contrast to the last two years in this room, which were chaotic, cluttered, and altogether the fastest two years of my life.

I have entered into what CJ, my roommate and best friend, called “The Beauty of the Last.” Each day is marked with the lasts- one last Saturday basketball game at KIPP Believe, one last family dinner at our beloved Nirvana, and one last time watching CJ perform at Comedy Lives. Ashley Prevost shared a quote with me recently she had found in The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai- “She had not estimated the imbalance between the finality of goodbye and the briefness of the last moment.” Thats where I am, unable to fully engage with each profound moment, but shocked by its brevity.

Site of countless Sunday Family dinners, including 17 weekends straight spanning from late 2007 to Spring 2008

Site of countless Sunday Family dinners, including 17 weekends straight spanning from late 2007 to Spring 2008

But if there is one thing I cherish, and one thing that New Orleans has taught me, it is the power of celebration. And there is so much to celebrate as I get ready to depart. Almost every night of the last two weeks has been going out for a goodbye dinner. The temptation, of course, is to want to leave and wallow in the night’s goodbye, but this would only end in an unhealthy amount of sadness. And, as CJ also pointed out, there is something about this time that inspires us to live more fervently, to cherish what we have, and to make good on all our promises. So, I’m trying to view every night as a celebration. Something that I share with each respective person or group of people to celebrate what we have- not because it is over, but because its changing and we now officially have a history together. And if I’ve learned anything from my past friendships, they’re never really over and those relationships always resurface just when you need them. Ah, life lessons- they never cease to be just general enough that they sound cheesy.

Last night I had dinner with Sanjana at Theo’s and she surprised me with a book she had made with pictures of me with my class and notes from every one of this year’s students, some of last year’s students, Sanjana and Ms. Segady. Many of the thoughts were incredibly powerful (“I’m sorry for giving you such a hard time and I thank you for getting me ready for the fifth grade”), some adorable (“You were my first best teacher”), and some students couldn’t quite express their thoughts (“What I like about our class is it is clean.” It is important to note that my classroom is infamously NOT clean, so where this came from I have no idea.) These are the presents people should get more often, things that show us we are loved and appreciated and validate all we believe in and have worked to accomplish.

This is what I have taught them- how to not pose for pictures.

This is what I have taught them- how to not pose for pictures.

It is important to note that I will not be going to Greece by myself. I will be joined by my friends Sheena and Mike. I have had the pleasure of working with Sheena this last year and the quality of my personal and professional life has skyrocketed as a result- she’s incredible. And remember Mike, because he has apparently vowed to do anything and everything to get mentioned in this blog (Let’s count- this is the first). I am very lucky to start my adventure in such good company.

And they play harmonicas!

And they play harmonicas!

Here is a song that I have been enjoying quite a bit lately. CJ, Jalls, and I blasted it and sang on our way home from our last dinner before Jalls left for Virginia. I also listened to it on the way home from family dinner last Sunday, only to have CJ pull up next to me with his windows down and he was singing it too. We drove a while next to each other singing to the same song. Then I got too ambitious and tried to throw the CD from my car to his car and it didn’t make it. Don’t worry, I got i back.

Gillian Welch- Black Star (Radiohead cover) http://7970917082554362344-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01blackstar.mp3?attredirects=0&auth=ANoY7cp3FRpHQpGpFfxlfWR7lp8w9AgmmaIY1-8SfCjdOkXxCipEQnarx5LV3vqphQjhZa2P0NSj3vaxfkSxEYPxzknbnsHw0Ok9sCJX_-5wes0UN6DTXyaLlonsky2QMEtiHI-B7HboMCA6wvOf-wh_EQh-mFvrfQoQQXHj8gG1YM8TN8F2EwFqqFUXfhiL_7BV4m7WG7idOVApgZ9-wdjWbU0RIVYgNFpJqi2tRWPVYlbRyT6OYV8%3D

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Now, my friends, I am going to walk downstairs and hand my principal my set of keys to the building. My steps will be weighted with the memory of long nights spent planning and working, years of student reading growth, hours of games and fun with people who taught me more than I could have ever hoped to have taught them, and a undying hope that the best is always yet to come- for me and my students.

Tomorrow I leave for Tennessee immediately after school ends. I need to be in Manchester, TN before Friday at noon where I will meet Danielle and Bryan and partake in the one and only Bonnaroo Music Festival.

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