NOLA

In less then 48 hours I will be on my way to New Orleans.

I have always had strong emotions about Louisiana.

When I was younger and would be on road trips with my dad that took us along I-10…I was terrified. I would pretty much hunker down in the car and try to not look out the window as long as we were in the state. Whenever we had to stop to get gas or something, I would be terrified. This state seemed filled with foreigners who lived a life so different from mine that I only knew to be scared of them. This was all made up in my head. I have no idea where this fear came from and I don’t really remember when it went away.

For my 30th birthday, Matt (my friend since birth) and I were going to join forces in New Orleans for our birthdays. We had done that for our 21st in Vegas….and it was great. But just as plans were starting to come together, Matt was diagnosed with cancer. NOLA would be waiting. That was 2003, and until 2005, I didn’t really think a lot about Louisiana, one way or another.

Then the storm hit. THE storm. It didn’t seem possible that an American city could be under water, let alone one that was so beloved. It didn’t seem possible that we would let our people languish in horrible conditions. Die in attics. Drown in their own homes…..days after the storm had passed. For some reason I took this somewhat personally. I had never been to NOLA and now it was so close to being a shell of it’s former self, I might never get to go. I was pissed. I went to the Austin City Limits Festival 3 weeks or so after The Storm. Hurricane Rita was taking a similar path to that bitch Katrina and more folks were finding their way to Austin. We offered to put a couple of folks up in our hotel room as ACL had made housing hard to come by…but they thanked us and just kinda hung out. We saw them a few times over the 3 days we were there and I listened to countless stories about The Storm. Personal stories, not clouded with political opinion or anger, simply stories. Stories that still resonate in my head. Just basic survival. Pulling themselves up by their boot straps. Sure, these weren’t residents of the Lower Ninth and had a lot more going for them then a lot of people, but your home get’s demolished and it hurts as much if you are in a shotgun house in the Lower Ninth or a Mansion in the Garden District. Home is home.

It took a couple more years before my obsessive nature perked up and I was all about New Orleans and Louisiana. I’m not ashamed to say that True Blood sparked a lot of interest. Then I found myself working with a girl from NOLA. Outside of her earshot, early in my tenure there, another coworker found it ridiculous that the girl from NOLA thought that Katrina effected her more then 9/11 did. Um….her house was underwater. Her childhood was washed away. Her mom was living on a barge and dealt with death threats because she worked for the Army Core of Engineers. She once said, a tall building in NYC makes little  difference to a girl from NOLA.

Shortly after I met her, the documentary When the Levees Broke showed up in my mailbox from Netflix. For four straight hours I watched this story unfold. I’m not normally a huge Spike Lee fan because I don’t like to be hit over the head with his “message”….but unlike the topic of the documentary, he used a soft touch and let the story tell itself. I cried. Man did I cry. Then I got pissed. Super pissed. And them embarrassed. The next workday I apologized to my co-worker on behalf of all the people who let her and her city down. From that point on, it was NOLA obsession deluxe!

I read about the food.

I read about the history.

I read about the geography.

I would spend hours on Google maps trying to get my bearings of the area, even though I had read enough to know that even those born and raised there have a hard time finding their way around sometimes.

I read books about The Storm.

I read books about life after The Storm.

I read books about life before The Storm.

I read restaurant menus and hotel reviews.

I made lists of places to go and things to see.

I pictured in my head all of the things I wanted to experience there.

I could hear the music playing.

I could smell the food.

I could see the architecture and the people.

I still can.

At this point I feel I am almost pregnant with anticipation for arriving in NOLA. I am heavy with excitement. I have so many plans and so many expectations. And the date is so close I can’t stand it! People have said that they are worried it won’t live up to my expectations. I more fear that it will exceed them and I will be so pissed that it took me 37 years to get there.

I guess we’ll all know soon.

But not soon enough.

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Why I’m a bad blogger

Yes, I will be blogging about why I don’t blog.

Yes, it can be confusing being me sometimes.

But I think I’ve figured out why I have not blogged regularly, as I promised myself I would be doing.

The first reason is that, intrinsically, I am lazy. Seriously, I am most regularly happy chilling on my couch with my dog and cat. I can big time party with the best of them….but as a rule, I’d rather not.

The second reason, indelibly tied to the first, is that I lead a somewhat boring life. I mean, I’m not bored by it, but I bet most people would be.

Which leads to, or is continued in, reason three. I tend to write more when I am very sad or very happy. Content does not lend itself to writing for me. I am blissfully content these days. I love my life. I love my job. I love my friends.  I love my family. I love my house. Things are just really good right now…but not in such a way that they inspire much writing.

Sometimes I simply want to live my life, not document it or report about it. I forget to take pictures because I’m too busy experiencing the sight. I forget to write things down because I’m too busy enjoying the situation. Sue me.

But in less then two weeks I will be in NOLA…and if my world is rocked 1/3 as much as I anticipate it will be rocked….I will be blogging my fingers off.

Or not….

Well hell…..

I missed yesterday.

Sure, I worked 12 hours.

But dammit all to hell I forgot to post ANYTHING yesterday.

Perhaps I should make it that I will post at least 365 posts in 2011?

Or is that cheating.

See…I told you I was good at letting myself down.

SHIT SHIT SHIT

The Diamond Anniversary of Dick Howard

My grandpa Howard was born 100 years ago today.

He didn’t live to see 100.

He died at 73 on Halloween. I haven’t felt the same about the holiday since. But he died in a way that sounds pretty nice. He had made apple dumplings (the peeler was still attached to the counter and the dumplings were in the fridge) and he was all ready to disappoint the neighborhood kids with a bowl full of cheap candy. He raked the leaves, came in to take a nap, and never woke up.

He died in the same house he was born in.

He was the first person I was really close to that died.

But let’s quit with the details of his death and talk about the details of his life.

Whenever I find myself being too responsible, running early, or doing something because it simply should be done (not out of any desire to do it) I quickly remember that I am Dick Howard’s  granddaughter. He was an amazing man. He worked a blue collar job. Raised 3 daughters. Took a vacation pretty much every year. Went deer hunting around Thanksgiving. Built a pottery wheel in his basement. Gave me drinks of water from a fabulous metal dipper. Always had doublemint gum and let me put sugar in my iced tea.

Everytime I drink sweet tea I think of Grandpa. I think of how he would have truly appreciated the house wine of the South, if for no other reason then being able to skip all that stirring. He would stir and stir and stir and stir, trying to get that sugar melted. But it never really did. He taught me you had to stir it really well and quickly take a drink. This had to happen before each drink if you wanted your iced tea to be sweet. Oh how he’d enjoy the sweet tea around here….

My Grandpa wasn’t really fond of my dad. He and my dad both worked at the National Standard plant and one day he saw my dad peeing in the parking lot. Not like in the middle of it or something…but behind a car or bush. Regardless, it wasn’t right. When my parents divorced, I would argue that my Grandpa wasn’t bummed. We all knew this and the first time my Dad dropped my off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house I was shocked at how cold my Grandpa was to my dad. Even at 4 years old I found the whole thing offputting. Turns out that my Grandpa hadn’t recognized my dad and was just being cordial to the man who was dropping off his granddaughter. Once we figured this out we all laughed and I’m pretty sure my dad was later welcomed into the house with open arms and greeted with a hug.

As I write this I am struck with how few distinct memories I have of my Grandpa. I am also struck with, even in the absence of these memories, how much I still miss him. I wish he was around to help me with things at my house. I think he’d LOVE my dog and maybe even like my cat (although he believed the only good cat was a dead cat).  I wish he knew how important he is to me. I wish he knew how every time I see the first lighting bugs I think of him punching holes in the top of a jar lid for me to catch them. How I would catch as many as I could and he would let me sleep on the mud porch with them for light. How he never made fun of me for getting scared from the lack of light on the mud porch and ended up back inside, leaving the lightning bugs to die outside. I wonder if he had as much fun grocery shopping with me as I did him? I wonder how he made store brand macaroni and cheese so yummy. I wish he taught me to make bread….he made the BEST bread.

I could go on and on about the random little things that make me think of my Grandpa. I always wished that he and my Grandma Haley were married….maybe that’s happened in heaven now. Man…that would be so amazing.

Happy 100th Grandpa! I love you more then you ever knew and will love you forever.

Happy 2011!

I don’t normally do resolutions. Mostly because I hate realizing how easy it is for me to let myself down. However, I am using my resolve this year to post more frequently on my blog. By more frequently I mean EVERY DAY! Now, I am being realistic in this and not expecting each post to be a charming, well thought out, pithy insight into some random thing in the world. Some days may just be a photo (probably of Noodle….let’s face it, he’s a damn photogenic creature) or it may be a link to something that made me smile or think or cry, etc… But I vow that each day of 2011 will have some sort of post from me. A web based record of the year.

I know….this is so exciting for all my 4 readers.

Will I follow through with this?

Will I just pull 365 photos of Noodle now….just to be prepared?

How many times will I mention Texas, music, Noodle, etc….?

Will this prevent me from being an active member of society?

I guess you’ll have to read and see 🙂

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have faith that 2011 will continue the trend of fabulosity in my life!

Happy Almost Birthday Long Lost Friend

I know, I’m early.

Three days.

It’s even early for a habitually early person like me.

But you’ve been on my mind lately.

I miss you.

Really…I could end this blog right there and it would express all I need to. But, as you probably recall….I like to expand on things. Give more details then may be needed. You used to find that charming.

We’re going on 5 years of not being friends. Which means it will soon be a fact that we have NOT been friends longer then we were friends. But, damn, what a time it was. We just clicked. Kinda instantly. I had only known you since your “big secret” was out…so you didn’t have to worry about me judging you about it. Hell…it probably made me like you more. Our first time hanging out big time was at my office Christmas party. It was kind of a drag of a thing to go to, but our mutual friend who introduced us was there and we ended the evening playing skee ball. We got a bunch of tickets and you exchanged yours for disco ball key chains. I will never forget walking into your bathroom and seeing those tiny things hung from the ceiling in a perfect little line, the only real decoration in your sparse bathroom. It was possibly your first really “gay” thing to do and it was hilarious to me.

If I were to document all of the things we did together, well, I don’t think we could. We saw each other more days then we didn’t. Our lives, in many ways, kind of melded into one.  We respected each other’s quirks and tolerated each other’s neurosis. We traveled together amazingly, even though you always left your toothbrush in the sink and wanted to get up super early. We didn’t share food well since you acted like a starving child eating your first meal in months…but I learned that quickly and acted accordingly. We had code words for stupid things. We had inside jokes that are still funny to me. We had similar enough taste in boys to be supportive of our random crushes, but different enough to make it interesting. You were the first person I told about so many things, and I was the first person you told about so many things. We had a really good run. It was a friendship like no other I’ve ever had. And not to beat a dead horse….but I miss you.

I could go into what pulled us apart. I have theories and things that upset me. But at this point in my life, those things don’t matter. I don’t have room for the ugly things in my past, the good things are so much stronger.

The possibility of us being anything more then the cordial folks we are when we run into each other is super slim. Really, I don’t know if I would want to be friends again. I don’t think it would ever be like it was and trying to make something like it used to be just rarely works out well.

But, for what it’s worth, I have amazing memories of our time together. You showed me things I probably never would have seen and I’d like to think I did the same for you.

Happy 36th Craig! You know how I always love even numbers……

Did I Just Say That Outloud?

Random hallway conversations with co-workers can bring out some interesting information. You can find out what happened at a co-worker’s recent wedding, learn who has fallen out of favor with the bosses, even figure out who to join forces with and who to avoid. You can, as I so startlingly found out today, find out things about yourself. Truths that come out of your mouth before you even realize you felt that way. Admissions that sound pretty horrible, in reality.

Today’s admission came during a discussion about my upcoming birthday. I’ll be the big 3-7. For some reason, this sounds old. My co-worker said that her 32nd birthday was looming and felt old, but that she was really already concerned about her 40th. I admitted that I was already kinda freaking out about turning 40 also, but figured I’d get over it in 3 years. She had a list of things that she had to accomplish by 40, one of which was getting married. When she said that is when “it” happened. The next 7 words I spoke shook me to the core when I realized I said them.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get married.”

I mean, sure, I’m 36 and sleep with a dog and a cat, but I guess, somewhere, I hadn’t completely given up the idea that I would be married some day. Until today apparently. Standing in the doorway of the copy room. Preparing a package to go to China.

In ways this admission terrifies me. Should I go out and get 4 more cats and stop brushing my hair? It also frees me. I am, somehow, no longer “poor, single Heather” but simply Heather. Happy Heather. Gainfully employed at a job she loves. Noodle and Kobe’s mom. Sally and Tom’s daughter. Heather Renee Haley.

I will always have the fab initials of HRH.

I will never have to worry about life insurance.

The random stories of my life will have to live on through those I have chosen to be in my life, not those who have been legally bound to me.

Wow.

Never married.

Didn’t really see that one coming.

Yet here it is.

Is my life any different from making this admission….doubt it.

But now it’s out there…..and once something’s out there, you can’t take it back. I learned that in When Harry Met Sally.

Damn–even THEY got married……

Big in Belgium

There is joke in the music world about unsigned or new bands being huge in Belgium, or Europe or Southeast Asia or basically anywhere but where they are actually located.

Sometimes I feel like those bands. I have a strong support system here in Nashville, don’t get me wrong. My mom lives here now for God’s sake…and ain’t no one more supportive of me then her. So why do I feel like so much of my life and loved ones are somewhere else?

I could chalk it up to being restless…which I most definitely am, but that seems too easy. Perhaps I have inherited my father’s “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” mentality? But wait…I love it here. I love my house. I love my friends. I love my job. I love Sunday dinners at my mom’s. I love Thursday night trivia at 3 Crow. I love driving to World Market and marvelling at the rolling green hills.  Nashville is home.

But I miss so many of my friends. I miss my girls from Cali so much sometimes that I can’t even deal. Life was so silly and fun and random when we were all together. I guess I should find solace in the fact that they don’t even see each other much these days because of busy lives…and they all live less then 20 minutes from each other. But still, I wish I could put them all on a plane and have them move here.

I miss my Austin peeps. How is it possible that I know so few people there and have spent so little time with these people…but they are still my peeps? Perhaps it’s because life isn’t real for me when I am in Austin. It is a series of decisions, not about which bill to pay or  if I should call the lawn guy or not, but where my next frosty drink or live music should be enjoyed. It’s about driving through barren yet beautiful landscapes and imagining I have married a lonely rancher who loves art and music and Drag Queens as much as I do. We live this idyllic life, never worrying about anything real or stressful. My fantasy life in Central Texas is probably what ties me to the people I know there. They are living small portions of that fantasy and by keeping in touch with them, I am too….kinda.

I even have peeps in Michigan. There are my family members there…who I have to relationship with. Then there are the people who I consider my family. The people who I can go years without seeing, yet always feel comfortable around. The people who live this odd little life near the small town that spawned both of my parents. I wish I could go to the little league games and random dinners and pool parties. I wish an 8 minute drive separated us instead of an 8 hour one.

The more I think about this….I feel that Facebook may be to blame. I know so much more about the day to day lives of these people then I did pre-social networking, yet I can’t really be a part of it. I can’t hug them in sympathy or celebration. I can’t run into them at the movies when we both have status updates about the latest Julia Roberts movie.  I can’t drive over to their house when they’ve made too much amazing food.  I can’t join them to see the new cute band with brothers in it play down the street.

But I can’t focus on all I can’t do. It will make me crazier then I already am. I must focus on what I can do. Like driving up my driveway and having Noodle’s little face in the window. Like sitting on a friend’s deck or backyard with a random group of people I would never have met anywhere else. Like seeing the strange, one armed Asian man running “laps” in his driveway. Like getting take-out from Cracker Barrel and not even trying to convince my mom to not share hers with Noodle.

I’ve got it pretty damn good. I know this. But dammit….I miss my peeps sometimes 😦