The goodbye party at the lake is going exceptionally well. The lake was chosen because it’s outside and big and there’s always space, and if you’re brave you can go swimming. ("If you’re brave" because the city regularly advises against people swimming there; Lake Pontchartrain is dirty, and every once in a while someone dies in it for reasons that can’t be explained.) There is watermelon, a summery tape playing on a “Do The Right Thing”-inspired boombox, and an inflatable dolphin. It’s hot, but the shade and the breeze off the lake makes the heat tolerable. The people who have come — and there are lots — are people you love. You’re standing by the grill (green peppers and rings of onion are softening slowly over white coal) when someone you loved once asks: “What have you been doing with your last few days in New Orleans?"
Coltrane liked the old house. He's a wiry tuxedo cat who routinely loses fur around the base of his tail because that’s where the bugs like it most, and he bites at them incessantly. When we moved, Coltrane got this horrified look on his face that was practically human. He was like any kid on a TV show where the family has to move, except there was the tragic complication that Coltrane couldn’t understand why we would want to leave what had been a perfectly fine living situation for a smaller house with a ramshackle joke of a backyard. We couldn’t say, “Hey, the owner of the old house had to sell it. We don’t like this new one as much, either. But sometimes in life you just have to deal with things happening that you don’t like."
Before I embarrass myself, we should establish something: I am really into butterfly metaphors. I couldn’t care less how much they’ve been “done” (as one of my writing teachers told me they were), or that an entire generation of once-girls-now-women have rendered the image cliche through a veritable onslaught of lower back tattoos. A butterfly emerging from a cocoon is one of the best tiny mysteries of the natural world, and there just isn’t anything else quite like it.
Tomorrow, New Orleans votes on the New Orleans Public Library Millage Proposition Election. If the measure does not pass, New Orleans will need to close several branches of its libraries. This would be an unspeakable tragedy; public libraries are one of the most important things in our modern world. But don't take my word for it: here's a genderless wombat who will explain some of the details for you.
I am sitting down to write while Baltimore is uprising. Or — since the National Guard has been brought in, and a curfew is in place — I am sitting down to write in the wake of Baltimore uprising, and I can say this without hesitation: my white friends have opinions about it. Their opinions are: “There is never a reason for violence"; “Violence begets violence"; “It’s an uprising not a riot"; “The media is racist"; “Rioters are thugs"; “Rioters (uprisers) are heroes"; and, most popularly, “This again?"
Two days ago, someone broke into my car. I was at a concert — the kind of concert I hadn’t been to in almost a decade, with electric guitars and an obsessively-adored touring musician. Throughout the show, I kept thinking, “I wish there was some way to hold onto this feeling.” I could tell that I was nearing the end of a part of my life where I truly enjoy being pressed up against the front of a stage, digging my fingers into some twenty-something’s amplifier. Someday soon this will all feel less exciting to me. I wanted to be able to remember how it felt to be that kind of alive. Meanwhile, someone quickly went through everything I’d left in the car since I started to move, and made judgements about what was worth keeping.