Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Jack Kerouac is accused of writing about people going nowhere…but they were always going to Denver, and that is a definite destination indeed. -As quoted in the Denver Post, December 29, 1974

Back on New Year’s Eve 2008, as the year turned to 2009, I remember being struck with an overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a good year. It felt definite and unavoidable. There were things throughout the year that quite actively worked against this but nothing could change the fate of 2009. It was, when all was said and done, a good year.

I know people who would fall on both sides of this argument, those who firmly disagree with me and didn’t bat a eye or shed a tear as the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010 and those who, upon meeting the new year, said,”You got some big shoes to fill, 20-10.” While I am admittedly someone who admits failure much more readily than I do success and will therefore avoid putting any sort of superlative next to 2009 (e.g. “greatest year ever,” “most important year ever,” “year that I ate the absolute most”), I will say that as a year it felt important/good/new enough that I couldn’t help but look at that big old full moon that 2009 left as a housewarming present for 2010 on New Year’s Eve and, like anyone who played after Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival, say, “That’s a hard act to follow.”

Taken during a friendly game of hide and seek at the Denver Contemporary Art Museum with Kyle and Aileen. Aileen was trying to be completely camoflauged.

So, you ask, what made last year so great? What made it so good that I find myself addressing calendar years as they were human? Was it that I started the year in New Orleans, spent half of it on a Greek Island and have ended up in Colorful Colorado- three of my favorite places? Well, that surely helps. Surely it has something to do with all the new people you met and strong connections you made, right? Right, thats important. What about when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals? Yeah, that really helped. Was it all the new places you visited and new experiences you had, from camping in Mississippi to having the best birthday you’ve maybe ever had to skinny dipping in the Aegan sea and learning how to play chess? Of course, those were all important, just like my students succeeding and all the good music and books and food that helped to make it a good year. However, there were things that didn’t help it as a great year- things I won’t go into here- but suffice it to say that every year, even the really good ones, have their ups and downs. This is why I won’t say that the aforementioned things were the essence of why this was a good year, though it bares repeating that I am thankful for all of these things and know that I wouldn’t be where I am without each and every one of those things.

Interlude for a photographic essay entitled, "Things that happen in Colorado around the holidays." First up, making apple pie.

Arguing about who gets to ask the question in Trivial Pursuit and then getting in a fist fight with your dad because he won't let you read it.

Congratulating families on their new arrivals.


Solo musical performances.

Musical duos that involve profoundly unattractive facial hair.

Get to the point, right? Here is why:

A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A route is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been rereduced to a mer obstacle to human movement and a waste of time. -Milan Kundera, “Immortality”

I feel like 2009 was a year that thrust me forward into new places with new faces, and it was the decision to make the year a road instead of a route that made the difference for me. I wanted every stretch of road to have meaning in itself and accept its invitations when it asks me to stop.

I spent so much of my time in Greece attempting to be present in a moment, to worry not about what was coming next or what came before but what was happening then. The funny thing is I realized, when all was said and done, I failed at this. I was unable to simply be present, and, to be quite honest, I’ve never been happier to admit I failed at anything in my life. One misses so much when they are simply present or in only one moment. Being present is important but I think I realized I already knew how to do that. What I really needed to learn was that life is indeed moving forward, or at least around, and the challenge is knowing when you’ve been invited to stop and value the space you’re in along this road. When I said I wanted to be present in my life, I think I actually wanted to make sure I wasn’t on a route with my actions, experiences, and movement purely defined by the point I started and where I would end up. And, you know what, it isn’t.

More than anything, I know I was much more than present because I’m in a different place than I’ve ever been before. 2009 as a road took me from one place and I’ve ended up somewhere completely new with stops on a Greek beach to play backgammon with Mike and Sarah, in John and Zalina’s house talking and laughing, in the Rude Shipyard in Sheffield, in a London warehouse flat as the blue morning light flooded the room, in Eunice, Louisiana to listen to Cajun music, and on my porch on Mardi Gras day. I will admit, the reason 2010 is going to be different than 2009 is that I’ve started it just trying to make sense of the new space I’m in. The new place to which I’ve been brought. But I’m not worried. I’m really not. As long as I step forward meaningfully on this road, this new year, and make as many stops as possible a long the way, I know everything will be fine.

Sigur Ros- Heysatan


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The island has felt gentle these last few days. After months of intensity in many forms- intense sun, rain, living, happiness, longing, friendships, dreaming, scheming, missing, loving, food, adventure, books, music, etc., the island suddenly feels calm and gentle. The sky is a soft and clear blue while the breeze is neither cold nor hot. A silence has settled over Oia, a place that stripped of the tourists, truly is just a beautiful, simple village tucked away in the rocks. I’ve felt immersed in the slow pace that I’ve longed for and sought after since I got here, as its easier to lose yourself working in the shop, taking a lunch at Roka, or playing music in the little courtyard.

Here is a song to start off the blog that was played MANY times in the shop in the last few weeks. Luckily, it doesn’t really get old.

Raphael Saadiq- Sure Hope You Mean It (download here/MySpace here)


Following a great stint of bookstore personnel, there are now only three of us, me, Amanda (who has returned) and Pete (who owns and runs an independent bookshop in Sheffield, England and plays some great folk music). This is down from six just a few days ago. Ali is back in San Francisco. Debbie and Ellie have gone back to London and onto Paris, respectively, and Desirina left just yesterday to head to Charlotte for a family visit. I was worried that this mass exodus would leave me in a bad place, worn out from more goodbyes and ill-equipped to mentally prepare myself to leave. This, however, was not the case. While I admit I am emotionally exhausted, I feel invigorated by my time with these people and thankful that my last experience with a big group in the shop was with them, because I’ve been left with a sweet and celebratory taste in my mouth (which could also be due to the absurdly and gluttonously good food we regularly consumed). As opposed to thinking upon each respective departure with a mix of hope and worry, “Well, I wonder what is next,” I found myself taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, “Ok. It’s fitting that they’re leaving, because I’m leaving soon too.”


Featured in this photo: A yellow car we rented that we came to call "Tiny Taxi," the newest bookstore worker known henceforth as "Tiny Pete," and a blue sky that is anything but tiny


Debbie won a prestigious award for her theater venue, so Amanda and I made her this fruit tart.


Ellie was jealous so she stuck her tongue out at it. Yeah, real mature.

The profoundity of the calmness I am feeling is only understood when I remember the urgency with which I lived during my last few days in New Orleans. My last few weeks there were a blur of last times, goodbyes, and the milking of every second for all it was worth to the point of exhaustion. This is not to say that the last few weeks have been without excitement, though. The days before everyone left were, for lack of a better word, epic. We crammed in as much adventure and whimsy as possible while always making time for good food and loving and tending the shop in a way I didn’t know was possible with so many people.


INTERLUDE! I now present a new photo series called, "Boy and his oar." This specific one is called "Boy and his oar and his confusion"


This one is called "Boy and his oar and his friend who lives in a cave and won't come out because she is afraid of the boy and his oar."


"Boy and his oar and his beard and his jacket that doesn't fit very well in the sleeves"

Finally, this is called "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small-sized hill"

Finally, "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small sized hill"

One of these adventure-filled days, we adventured to Therissia (which has possibly turned into my favorite trek to make on the island) where we all agreed to not speak a word from the time we stepped off the boat from Santorini to the moment we left the island. This proved to be a powerful experience which heightened the views and the silence and made me feel closer to everyone. Ali mentioned it in his blog, too.


Let's play a game. It's called Real picture or fake picture. Alright. That picture right there, real or fake? If you answered fake, you are wrong. I've been there. I know.

land before time

Next picture. Real or fake? If you answered fake, this time you were right. This is a scene from the Land Before Time. If you answered real, I really don't know what to tell you.

Loudon Wainwright III (yes, again)- Come A Long Way (download here/MySpace here)


In the midst of all this, I accepted a mission from my sister, which was to have one day of completely new experiences- new food, new places, new music, etc.- and one day completed filled with familiar and comforting things. I have managed to fill many of my last days with things I love and find comforting. These are things that fit nicely into the calming of the days and enjoying the last of my time here. It was the new day which proved to be the most interesting.

The day was filled with new music (here, here, and here), my first perfectly pouched egg (thanks to Ali and Debbie), a picnic in a field where we all stuck in a tight circle in order to keep the wind out, the exploring of a dilapidated building with three people I’ve never met before which resulted in us being kicked out and followed by a furious Greek woman, and was my first Halloween out of the United States (we watched a terrible scary movie and I fell asleep). Perhaps it was cheating, but I actually started the time on the new day the night before, when we went to the house of a friend of the shops who is a local fisherman. He made us a wonderful dinner of fresh fish (many of which he had caught) and we shared dancing, music, and various forms of Greek alcohol. Following the meal, Ellie and I were taken out in the tiny fishing boat where we (kind of) helped with some night fishing in Ammoudi Bay. We hauled in the load, picked the fish out of the net ourselves, had them fried there, and ate the fresh fish. Now, this night included a variety of first-time experiences. I have never had such a wonderful dinner of things someone has caught, eaten it in their home overlooking the water, gone night fishing, picked dead fish out of a net, and then eaten the fish I helped cook. Folks, I am a vegetarian. I really am. This is big. This night was something else, though. Goodness.


Scene from our dinner at Ammoudi.

All this has passed now and I feel myself waiting calmly and feeling at peace the best of what has happened and what will surely come next, just like the island seems to be gently at peace with the changing of the seasons as it wields the best of summer and fall, an intricate balancing act I know won’t last too long. I am absorbing and cherishing the last of my time with the things I love most here- being amongst the books, on the terrace, eating pitas, going to Ammoudi, playing chess, and talking with John and Zalina. In fact, just yesterday, inspired by the clear blue skies and the calm air, I took a dip into Ammoudi where I was welcomed by refreshingly cold water and a loss of breath, something I welcomed right back. And while these moments are fleeting in nature, I can’t help but rest assured that these are all things and places and people that I will carry with me forever. I can’t help but feel that these are the moments for which I came all this way.

Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball (download here/MySpace here)


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How ridiculously good is this song?

The Left Banke- Walk Away Renee


This blog post has been particularly hard to write. Its probably due to various factors, none more than the fact that I have waited so long and spread out the writing over a few days instead of just sitting down and doing it. And time does funny things here. Not this kind of funny. Or even this kind of funny. Not even this kind of funny. So, really maybe a better word is strange. Okay. Time does strange things here. The pace of life is slow and I am living at the slowest pace I ever have. This is healthy for me on many levels and I have reflected on numerous occasions on the value of taking time.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop.  Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop. Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

However, it is the way that certain things just fly by here that has been perplexing me lately. I have been here for two months now, but these two months can be dramatically broken into various chapters, all of which are profoundly different from the others. Since I last wrote, I have experienced essentially three different chapters.

Jack left last Sunday, along with Helen, who is a(nother) teacher from London who stayed at the shop for five days. Jack and I got a long famously, and I think this came down to our shared decision to spend our days intentionally seizing every opportunity that came our way. We lived this time to the fullest and did so very much on purpose. First and foremost, we worked hard in the shop to make it our own and I believe we succeeded. The recommended section featured a strong combination of our tastes (that sold many books, nonetheless), we had good communication and routines, and the shop always had a positive energy. Furthermore, I am most likely going to visit him in London in a few weeks, but thats neither here nor there.

We added a "Currently Reading" section.  Jack did the artwork and the reading.  I just stayed as current as possible.

We added a "Currently Reading" section. Jack did the artwork and the reading. I just stayed as current as possible.

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess.  On purpose.  Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack.  But that was also on purpose...

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess. On purpose. Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack. But that was also on purpose...

There is something that makes this chapter different than any of my others. I refuse to compare one segment of my time to another in terms of what is better, but what I can say is that I sped up for the last three weeks, and it all started by learning how to say, “Yes.”

I would say that often I default to “no” in new situations, or at least I have historically. This is not to say that I don’t try new things, because I would say I do, but somehow saying no, whether initially or ultimately, always allows me with a certain level of control that makes me feel comfortable.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Once again and to clarify, this does not mean that “no” is my final answer, but for these last three weeks I have made a concerted effort to say “yes” first and then think second (I promise it hasn’t been as dangerous as that sounds, Mom).
I’ve said yes to night swimming at 3 in the morning with people I had just met and was witness to some of the most incredible beauty I have seen here yet. Ammoudi (our regular swimming spot) was a different world at night. The stars shone proudly and brightly above us. The water was warmer than is right for 3 in the morning. And, most amazingly, the water was filled with incredible, glowing phosphorescent things that lit up the water.

Oia at night.  Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea.  (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

Oia at night. Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea. (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

I said yes to a sunset with wine and cheese one night and beach time at a part of of the island I had yet to visit the next day with Lauren and Mary Kay, friends from high school and New Orleans, respectively, who traveled to Greece together.

I’ve become closer with new friends on the island. We’ve had numerous music nights on the terrace that last well into the morning. I’ve learned more Greek in the last three days than I have for the whole rest of my time here. Jack and I let a new friend match us to our respective energy stones at his parents’ shop and then we bought them. I still wear it actually. I’m not sure how much I believe in such things, if at all, but, if nothing else, it has come to remind me to try new things.

And these things started with yes (and good judgment, Mom). Saying yes is not always easy for me, but, somehow, it is continually bringing me wonderful things here. And with each passing yes, time somehow gets stranger and stranger, and instead of hearing “Yes,” time hears “GO!” and it moves as quickly as possible.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Try this on for size and tell me what you think. She is an Icelandic singer-songwriter. I think its beautiful.

Ólöf Arnalds- Vittu af mer


Whatever the case, I must admit, I like what is happening, and I think I’m going to keep doing it. Not recklessly. Not stupidly. But just here and there. At times when I wouldn’t usually do it right away.

After Jack left, I was alone at the shop for three days. I enjoyed this time with the bookshop and I got to spend some great time with John and Zalina, friends of the shop who have been very, very good to me.

Now, I am beginning another chapter. A crowded chapter, but a fun one nonetheless. There are currently five other people in the shop, but luckily they are all outstanding people. The shop is a happy place and each night has been marked by a family style dinner on the terrace, somewhat in the vein of family dinners in Nirvana in New Orleans.

I have been thinking a lot about New Orleans lately, particularly with the recent anniversary of Katrina. I will spare you of anymore of my musings on this incredible city with its incredible people, many of which I love quite dearly. I have said time and time again that I know I will never be able to understand what this disaster actually meant to New Orleans. I had never been there before the storm, and this is something that you can’t really understand unless you lived through it, but I feel like New Orleans is in my blood now, or at least somewhere deep in where I feel rooted. More than anything, I just want it out there that I am thinking of New Orleans.

Bob Dylan said in his book, Chronicles:

New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands…There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.

I know its clique, but I just couldn’t help myself

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?


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I will start with a song to accompany your reading. Upon much reflection, Mike, Sheena (mention number five), and I have decided that any music sounds profoundly better when listened to here. In the first few days of being here every song we heard was followed by an almost obligatory, “Oh my God, that song is incredible. Play it again.” I’m not sure if this is the widely accepted magic of the bookstore, the general beauty of Santorini, coupling music with a new experience, or something I don’t quite understand yet, but something definitely enhances listening to music here. This is a song that I recently discovered and have listened to over and over- partially because I think its very good and it hits the spot for me every time, but also because I want to determine how much of its goodness is legitimate and how much is hearing it here. I have concluded it is legitimately great.

Sleep All Summer (Crooked Fingers cover)- The National and St. Vincent

Download here.

So, time is passing. Of this much I am sure. It has almost been a month since I arrived in Oia, and I would say a month is about time to start feeling like a place is familiar, like it somehow starts to feel like where you live. And, admittedly, I feel this. I was excited to return to the bookshop from Crete, because “it will be nice to be home and settled for a bit.” Home? Interesting.

Make this place my own?  My pleasure.

Make this place my own? My pleasure.

Now, I don’t know if I would go as far as to say this is home. Actually, I would definitely not say this is home. The “Where are you from?” question has already proven tough enough. “Uhhhhh, well…originally from Colorado but I’ve been living in New Orleans.” This answer took a while to formulate and the first time I was asked this question, I had a mini-identity crisis, but thats neither here nor there.

Just when you think you are safe, a vicious Greek monster is lurking in the bushes behind you.

Just when you think you are safe, a vicious Greek monster is lurking in the bushes behind you.

I have found it interesting lately to reflect on how I familiarize myself with a place, or, more specifically, how I make it my own.

Making New Orleans my own was easy. I found places that I considered “mine” (e.g. Nirvana, Theo‘s, Parkway Bakery, Bennachin, various places to eat breakfast, etc.), found people I loved (TFA friends, my roommates, Sophie, basketball friends), had an intense amount of routines that I could fall back on (Nirvana on Sunday, Canal Place Cinemas on Sunday evenings, streetcar to Cafe Envie on Saturdays, basketball games early in the week and on Saturday at KIPP Believe), worked hard, loved the work I did, and loved and was wowed by the place more than I could ever have imagined. This made making it my own easy, a big easy even, and I really considered it my home. It’s still hard to say its not.

Clearly, we feel at home in New Orleans.  Hence this family photo.

Clearly, we feel at home in New Orleans. Hence this family photo.

Claiming Santorini (in a strictly non-colonial way) is going to prove to be very different. Meeting the people is one of the best parts, but Santorini is very transient in its nature, so you can’t necessarily root yourself there. Though, please do hear how thankful I am for the people I have met, because they have all brought something to my journey, and how thankful I am for my time with Mike and Sheena, as they have sort of transitioned me here. Of the people who were here when I arrived, only Mike and Sheena remain, and they leave in less than a week.

Living in a small town, finding your places is pretty easy but quite rewarding. We eat pitas everyday for lunch from one of two places- a gyro place by the bus stop or Polski Locale. Marykay’s (this is not how it is spelled in Greek, but how it is pronounced) is a coffeehouse by day and the only bar and club by night and is located right across the walkway from us. During the day, we have gone there to play backgammon (a newly acquired skill and hobby) and just hang out. At night,
it is a good place to get a drink and talk, and last night there was flamenco music. However, this is a love/hate relationship because I have moved out of the bed I was sleeping in before and have moved into the connected living area. This is good news because I have my own space and I don’t always have to get up when the bookshop opens. This is bad news because I am right below Marykay’s and my door opens up to the drunken chaos that can be be the outside of the bar. So, when I go there, a part of me feels like I am losing a battle that I wage every night trying to go to sleep. Anywho, the other places that we regularly visit and are making our own are the beaches- two in particularly, Ammoudi and Katharos.

This is my new space.  Upgrade!  The mess is not all mine.  Mostly mine, but not all.

This is my new space. Upgrade! The mess is not all mine. Mostly mine, but not all.

But, more than anything, it is the routines and, strangely, the new experiences that are making me feel at home. Generally, I wake up and try to do some work in the bookshop- like one good project everyday that makes the bookstore better. Sometimes it is administrative duties (I have now completed my first successful business trip into the large town of the island where I met with the accountant briefly and deposited money at the bank), but mostly it is projects in the bookshop. It is here that I feel the most comfortable- surrounded by the books. When I rearrange the shelves, I enjoy feeling the bound pages in my hands. I am surrounded by beautiful works of art, characters, and stories that mean so much to so many people. It is here I feel the best. It feels safe and overwhelmingly beautiful. And don’t forget, the beautiful music is playing the whole time.

Regular things that happen at the bookstore: 1) I still at the till; 2) I am on the computer; 3) The cat suckles my shirt...  Trust me, its even weirder in person.

Regular things that happen at the bookstore: 1) I sit at the till; 2) I am on the computer; 3) The cat suckles my shirt... Trust me, its even weirder in person.

Bookshops are fun!  So is stealing other people's hats!

Bookshops are fun! So is stealing other people's hats!

The other thing that brings me comfort has been experiencing and learning new things. I have started playing backgammon, played a few games of chess, found old pieces of marble that I plan to paint on, recorded a song, learned the Greek alphabet and a few Greek words, jumped off ledges into the sea, and created a shelter from the sun on a beach.

This was our pre-robbing a bank photo, somewhere in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde, but following the actaully we realized our error in picking a crashed car as our get-away vehicle.  Poor, poor planning.

This was our pre-robbing a bank photo, somewhere in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde, but following the actaully robbery we realized our error in picking a crashed car as our get-away vehicle. Poor, poor planning.

I made this.  How needs architecture school when you have this raw talent?

I made this. How needs architecture school when you have this raw talent?

If you think this is me jumping off a high ledge, you are incorrect.  This documents my incredible ability to jump out of the water like a dolphin.

If you think this is me jumping off a high ledge, you are incorrect. This documents my incredible ability to jump out of the water like a dolphin.

Be sure to visit our new website, brosonbuoys.com

Be sure to visit our new website, brosonbuoys.com

If you thought this was Mike pushing me off the buoy, you would, once again, be wrong.  This photo documents my rare ability to dance on water.

If you thought this was Mike pushing me off the buoy, you would, once again, be wrong. This photo documents my rare ability to dance on water.

More than anything, I am learning that roots grow. This simple thing has been filling my mind lately. The thing that keeps us in one place, that keeps us grounded, grows. Outward or downward or upward if you are in the swamp, and where they grow is a part of that thing forever, just as much as anything else. I will add to this my list of very important things to remember.


Here is a song brought to me with the incredibly musically-wise Justin Lamb (check out his blog for some original . Its a jam, thats for sure.

Slow Down- Jesse Dee


Download here.

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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

Download here by right clicking and hitting “Save Link as.”

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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I have left places before. I moved from Castle Rock to Boulder to go to college. Later, from Boulder back to Castle Rock and onto Englewood, CO, after a transfer of schools. I left for Prague at the beginning of 2006. And then, of course, there was the move from Colorado to New Orleans. Some of the moves were harder than others, with moving to New Orleans easily being the most monumental.

But this…this leaving feels different. It is leaving the first place I built as a home. Within three days of arriving here in 2007 (after a stint in Houston for Teach for America Institute), I had already met someone who knew my grandfather (who had passed away decades before), seen one of my mom’s old houses, and thought to myself, “This place…now this is where I belong.” It felt like a homecoming, of sorts. I proceeded to passionately build a life for myself here, both with a meticulousness and abandonment that I had lacked in my previous life experiences. I met some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known, engaged in what I consider to be some of the most important work of our time (see Teach for America), and found success, not to mention fulfillment, doing it.

And now I’m leaving. This is officially my last Friday in my house, my last Friday in New Orleans (at least in this stint of my life), and my last Friday as a teacher (at least in this stinit of my life). It feels, at the same time, unreal and bearing a weight of inevitability that is altogether debilitating. As has become the tradition at Andrew Wilson Charter School, most of the students stop coming after Field Day (which was yesterday). I told my students I would not be returning next year, an announcement that was followed by an interaction with one of my favorite students that went like this:

Student: “Hey, Mr. Hamilton, knock, knock.”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Student: “Urine”

Me: (grimacing with reluctance) “Urine who?”

Student: (with huge smile) “You’re in it by yourself.” (Suddenly the smiles is gone from his face) “Seriously, you’re in this by yourself. You want to go all the way over there, you’re in it by yourself. I hope you don’t expect me to pay for anything.”

These are, of course, moments I will miss terribly, and, at this moment, I feel confident that I will find my way back to teacher and probably back to New Orleans, at some point in my life. And leaving is very emotionally difficult for me, dramatically more so than any of the aforementioned times I left for somewhere else. But it is important to note that I am going on to have an incredible experience. My summer schedule looks like this:

June 11- Last day of school

June 12- Travel to Tennessee

June 15- Return to New Orleans

June 18- Drive from New Orleans to Castle Rock with Sophie

June 20- Expected arrival to Castle Rock

June 25- Fly to Portland with Sophie

July 1- Return to Colorado by myself

July 7- Leave for Santorini, Greece

Greece will be my new home for the indefinite future, where I will be living and working at a bookstore in a town call Oia. I am moving there because I like vowels. Anywho, it is here that I will spend at least the next months of my life.

The terrace of the bookstore where I will be living

The terrace of the bookstore where I will be living

Here are two Neko Case songs that I’ve been enjoying.

Neko Case, “At last”http://7970917082554362344-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/11AtLast.mp3?attredirects=0&auth=ANoY7cpK6_oPGhvus0wknuM5M1a3L4gKilK7xbNfxhpvjfbBgyRFKzI1N6z7IzB0IsntF9lw68XcxTibNg7PjSk0t81b7_EOKcME7HLC8HqifIEnSbmjGY1aX6vRWzl-iMJ6hzY9LMYZTljxN8eSXSu7b-Oqd-mQJ-RtcQ5Kts_1q6-FvgdqpAVazGtSK1ZL0UifybvwA_ANZE66Q8eSscBwc_C-CjZfxgYtQanl81nh7FX0_qZvSV0%3D

Download here by right clicking and selecting “Save File as”

Neko Case “I’m an Animal” http://7970917082554362344-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/imananimal.mp3?attredirects=0&auth=ANoY7crdpozBVGLaXh2DtwBOr7pLKyZSKglWvBCkYyIFhRI-JgzlW7aCYluh_y3uZsOw4pEw0g4Z5ElnojmnADDwVpxN49inGbPRe0DCBLGkf5ZqvV3YgPxBMDF39LZ8bsiIM_DHNs1PkE5JXn3HFEeumiFXasW9fZBeS0efW81SFBh9uP0qSjD-Zi5U53uTyidkrcsG9o53MRr49dkGVah-aQiPAhZPkdkNUTLWEO8VlVKmpugmmOM%3D

Download here.

Visit her MySpace, because she’s really, really, really good. Also, her official site.

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