Saturday, June 14, 2008


It's been yet another long while. Most people in my life know I've now moved to New Mexico to start my family medicien residency, the latest chapter in a long training process. I'm going to keep blogging very sporadically at this site on New Orleans-related matters, but have set up another site at:

to write about residency, New Mexico, and the adjustment of living away from a home where I feel so rooted.

Here's my first post to that site, below.


It’s Gonna Be All Right

I’ve been hesitant to write here. Not because there haven’t been infinite beautiful and puzzling things to write about; not because—believe you me—I haven’t had time; I think it’s more that I’ve been relishing this transition time lately, the in-between-ness and rootlessness that comes when you leave one home and haven’t yet begun another. I’ve known since I was young that, for me at least, if I write something down it becomes true in a way it wasn’t before. You can’t take it back after that. And so I’m realizing that, happy as I’ve been these last few weeks, I haven’t been jumping up to write “I live in New Mexico.” There’s finality there, those words staring back. I think I haven’t been ready for that yet.

But I guess I just did it. That’s something.

I’ve been missing New Orleans in both bizarre and predictable ways. The other day a Dr John song on a friend’s CD made me cry, but I could’ve told you that 3 months ago, when I knew I’d be leaving. Or there’s this thing that happens, which I totally expected and was prepared for, which is that when I tell people here I’m from New Orleans, they say, “Oh. Were you there when all that stuff happened?” (I mean, that’s ok. What else are people gonna say? And it doesn’t make me torrentially sad, or angry, like it used to when people said that, it’s just one of those, “oh, yeah” moments, like when you come back from a life-transforming journey and people are like, “that sounds cool.”)

That stuff doesn’t affect me too much. I think that in a process of nostalgia or longing, it’s the stuff you didn’t expect to provoke strong emotion that ends up taking on extra meaning, even if it just makes you grin, or wonder. Here’s what some of those things have been for me lately:

The fleur de lis on a friend’s hat in an old photo.
A stranger on the street wearing a “Make Levees Not War” T shirt (aww.).
The red beans and rice I cooked for some friends the other night, the way they just didn’t taste the same.
The mailman. He comes every day, in the morning if you can believe it, and he actually brings mail that’s addressed to me, and nobody else. It’s astounding. But we don’t say hi, and he doesn’t know my name or that I just graduated from med school, and he’s never shown me a picture of his adorable 2 year old daughter.
The university hospital, which is shiny and bustling and actually has—yes—a cafeteria.
These crazy yellow flowers—I don’t know what they are—jumping out of bushes and all over the sidewalks and, really, kind of getting in everybody’s way, and they smell just like night blooming jasmine. In the desert! Could you believe that?
Hummingbirds. They are everywhere. My grandfather loved hummingbirds, and every time I see one I feel his spirit with me.
The streets: not their relative silence but that one time, one day, when I heard faint strains of what may have been a trumpet, wafting over a balcony and a fence into the warm rosy street.

But I’m totally not wallowing in sadness and homesickness. Things here have been beautiful and full of—I don’t know how else to say it—potential. There’s more to say but for now I’ll give you a little list of just some of the things I’ve already started to fall in love with:

Bike paths! Oh my gosh, they are everywhere!

Recycling! It comes every week and you don’t even have to pay for it!

The sunsets. I’ve found a couple of hilltops in my neighborhood where you can see for miles, all the red and silver rooftops glinting this weird orangey-gold light, and if you look over to the east the mountains are bright pink.

Lavender, which grows everywhere and makes the streets smell like crisp laundry.

Salsa dancing, which people do everywhere: in jam-packed bars with people dressed to the nines; an unassuming sports bar called The Tavern; a steakhouse (I am not joking); this beautiful amphitheatre place outside of the museum where people dance on the stairs and the balconies and between the seats, and right next to enormous metal sculptures.

The way everybody’s like, “Wow, really? Welcome to New Mexico! We’re so glad to have you here!” whenever I tell them I just moved.

Art is everywhere. People make art out of anything. (That reminds me of home, too).

My neighborhood library, which is in Ernie Pyle’s old white house, which is tiny and white and cute and has a garden outside, and there’s this twinkly white-bearded guy behind the desk who not only knew the name of every single kid who came in while I was there this morning (like, 14 kids), but also what kind of books they’d like. “I think this would be beyond most 8 year olds I know,” he said to this one red-headed girl with skates on, “but I bet you can handle it.”

The guy on Central Avenue tonight with a huge telescope in the middle of the street. “We’re looking at the moon tonight,” he declared to anyone walking by. “Wanna see?” And the telescope was so awesome that you could see canyons and plains and mountains on the moon, and after we were done exclaiming how cool it was the man said, “let me show you something really amazing.” And he repositioned the telescope to some random-looking place in the sky and when we looked through, there was Saturn! With rings!
“How’d you know where it was?” I asked.
“I have great aim,” the guy said.

The fireworks we saw coming home last night (from an outdoor concert! At the zoo! Where you could go look at the polar bears during the set break!). The fireworks weren’t for any major occasion; apparently they just do them on Fridays at the Isotopes games. We pulled over in a clearing by the park to watch them, which I thought would take about 5 minutes. But it just kept going and going. These fireworks were serious. So loud they shook the car, explosions of red and blue and purple raining down on the city. About 30 minutes later I was like, “wow. They really aren’t stopping.”
“Yeah,” Vanessa said from the front seat. “They’re pretty intense about fireworks here.”

I can live with that.