Friday, November 9, 2007

Full Steam Ahead: Penelope gets all Sentimental about Louisiana

Quote of the Week: “Penelope, you’re a Yankee and no matter how long you live in the South, you’ll never be able to overcome that.”

(Buster the incredible fighting kitty among the coconuts.)

Ok no one said that this week. But Dub did say it last week at Anna’s surprise birthday party and I liked it.

I’ll admit that this week, I got a wee bit depressed about the fact that I don’t know what I’m going to do next year except be squashed by the ridiculous amount of student loan debt I’ve racked up. On Wednesday decided I would move to New York once I graduated and try to get a job in publishing. There I could copy edit other people’s books by day and try to make contacts at night so I could get my novel published, but instead I’d have to go home after work because my back would hurt and all the other entry level writer hopefuls who are ten years younger than me will go out to trendy bars in the East Village, and get drunk and sleep their way to book contracts, while I lay in bed with an ice pack on L4 and L5 and talk to my friends on the phone about all the books I copy edit which are so awful and how my book is way better and why wasn’t it published yet and then I’d hang up worried that I’d become a whining bore and all my friends hated me. Then I’d fall asleep in front of the TV, and try to get up early to write but keep hitting snooze until I absolutely had to get out of bed, and ride to work on the subway having panic attacks about getting trapped in a subway tunnel.

But Wednesday night I went to go see “Low and Behold” at the Shaw Center. It’s a phenomenal movie. It combines a fictional story of an insurance adjuster in New Orleans after Katrina with real stories of people after the storm. It made me change my mind about that day’s plan to move to NYC. I got all fired up and decided to move to lower Plauquemines parish instead and hang out with the Croatian fisherman.

“Low and Behold” gave me one of those Louisiana moments where my eyes tear up and I think, “Damn, I didn’t know what love was until I opened my eyes and saw all those live oaks and smelled the sweet wood burning during fake winter and stopped being so g-d judgmental of all the people here.” That movie made me want to hug Louisiana until someone can smack some sense into all the politicians and dickhead corporations who screw this state over again and again. Mostly, I can’t believe I didn’t step foot here until I was twenty-nine. I’ve lived in West Virginia and Florida and Colorado, but I always felt like the East Coast was the center of the universe (any East Coaster who says otherwise is lying). I didn’t even know Louisiana existed, really. And the first year and half I lived here I HATED it. (Just ask my friends who had to listen to me complain about it all that time.) I couldn’t stand the blatant racism, the conservativism, the strip malls and chain stores everywhere.

I grew up on a salt marsh in a small coastal town in Massachusetts. I was and continue to be deeply tied to that land, to the way one particular tiny stretch of the rocky northern Atlantic smells and looks. But I’m not sure I knew what it was to love a place until I let Louisiana in. It makes me think of the first four lines of a Sylvia Plath poem (please keep reading, I swear I’m not gothing out on y’all), Love Letter.
(from Love Letter)
Not easy to state the change you made.
If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.

If you haven’t experienced that rush of expansion, the way Louisiana can touch your tender secret places, then scare the crap out of you and make you tear your hair out in frustration, and then show the best time you’ve ever had, this is not the blog for you.

I decided to start blogging in protest of another blog by a certain recent Yankee transplant to Baton Rouge who doesn’t know a thing about Louisiana and happens to be dissing on this town in a BIG way. A major, wicked, uniformed, holier-than-thou dis that is just plain mean-spirited at times. I mean, come on, if you’re going to hate on Baton Rouge, hate on the haters and the socio-political structures that f--- this town and the entire state of Louisiana over. We can start with the people who make mulch out of cypress trees and work our way up to Bobby Jindal. But griping about trick or treaters not wearing costumes and the name of the Advocate’s website? F U BaRou? Baton Rouge: Retarded or Just Slow? You better check yourself Miss BaRou. Or fais do do your hipster ass on outta here.

***Filled with innovative plans, ideas and good intentions, Penelope admits she’s been known to run out of steam on more than one occasion. She has thought about writing for publications such as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Elle, The Atlantic Monthly, The Baton Rouge Advocate, 225 Magazine, The Reveille and most recently the Baton Rouge Business Report. Other projects she’s planned but not completed include: Mary Queen of Spite, A Spite Documentary; making an Elvis Presley Mosaic out of Mardi Gras beads; stopping sweatshop production of Mardi Gras beads and creating a self-sustaining all Louisiana produced Mardi Gras bead economy; Sin and Salvation a weekend of strip clubs and mega churches; Pantoum, the Movie; reorganizing the stuff under the kitchen sink. ***