An ode to neighborhoods

Miscellanea #57: Including an a solid batch of links and some true miscellanea (send this to a friend)

Friends and readers — I hope this email finds you happy and optimistic, cooking delicious meals at home, and enjoying some beautiful spring weather. If you would be so kind, please send this email to just one person you think might enjoy it this week! It would mean a great deal to me.

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As the man in cheap old headphones and his off-leash dog made their daily trip by my porch, I wondered if he’d say something to my dog today. It’s about a 50/50 shot day-to-day. Sometimes he walks by with his son, often engaged in some intellectual banter. He’s always disheveled, his medium gray hairs poking out whichever way the pillow had sorted them. And on the mornings he’s alone, he is always smiling. As is his dog! They are one and the same, as it goes with dogs and their humans — over time, melting together, in temperance and aura. They must’ve slept on the same pillow last night.

No words from the headphone-man this morning. Now I wait – with the birds as my company and entertainment – for Denis and Fran to walk by and greet me by name in their matching Jazz Fest shirts, with their slow yellow labrador, on the way to their little yellow house on the corner. Later I’ll see them on my own walk and they’ll wave to me from their back porch. Headphone-man and Denis and Fran are my personal favorites, but as the morning goes on I’ll nod and smile and mutter pleasantries to a familiar cast of neighborhood millennials — our next door neighbor out for her morning jog and the guy whose dog has begun interrupting their walks to greet Maggie at our screen door.

For the folks on this side of the street, I am the human mood ring, monitoring their dispositions (and relaying them to Mary) as they dip and peak and dip again as the week goes by. Across the street, a spattering of gay couples and baby boomers walk their dogs past the neighbor’s dogs, who perform their best bad-dog impressions through the window in the fence. They are convincing, but when they take their own walk later, our neighbor will barely hold their leash. We know they’re sweeties.

Life before quarantine lacked these familiarities — the joy of knowing my neighbors, a fondness for our collective morning routine, the simplicity of a coffee on the porch. Without places to go and people to see, I’ve found a warm semblance of community as I’ve nestled myself into the peace of my neighborhood. But now there are murmurings of our country’s recommencement, and I’m not sure I’m ready to tag back in.

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For reading and listening:

Brittany Howard’s Transformation
“Howard started singing when she was three years old. Her great-uncle played bluegrass, and he often invited musicians over to jam in his woodshop. ‘I came in there one night, and they handed me a microphone,’ Howard said. ‘I remember all these grown country men, laughing and being entertained and giving me so much attention. I loved it.’”

A Love Letter to My Curmudgeonly Big Brother
“Our hike in the woods coincided with a point in our lives when we were trying to ascertain exactly which of our not entirely welcome behavioral patterns might be malleable and subject to our best intentions and which ones we were simply doomed to endure. In other words, our hike happened right around the time we were getting ready for Medicare.”

My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?
“And God, the brunch, the brunch. The phone hauled out for every single pancake and every single Bloody Mary to be photographed and Instagrammed. That guy who strolls in and won’t remove his sunglasses as he holds up two fingers at my hostess without saying a word: He wants a table for two. The purebred lap dogs now passed off as service animals to calm the anxieties that might arise from eating eggs Benedict on a Sunday afternoon. I want the girl who called the first day of our mandated shut down to call back, in however many months when restaurants are allowed to reopen, so I can tell her with delight and sincerity: No. We are not open for brunch. There is no more brunch.”

3 ways the coronavirus pandemic is changing who we are
“Under conditions of diffuse uncertainty, people are drawn, as if by a magnet, to simplistic solutions and black-and-white reasoning.”

On praying, whether you believe or not and Nick Cave’s thoughts on prayer
“The act of prayer asks of us something and by doing so delivers much in return — it asks us to present ourselves to the unknown as we are, devoid of pretence and affectation, and to contemplate exactly what it is we love or cherish. Through this conversation with our inner self we confront the nature of our own existence.”

The End Is At Hand Vol. 5: God Is My Home
“Another exploration into the sounds of the 60s and 70s Jesus People Movement —expect obscure, Jesus-centric, songs ranging in style from slow-burning psychedelia to loner folk.”

True miscellanea, a.k.a. whatever else I can stuff in here

I’ve been captivated by a portrait of Allen Toussaint receiving a manicure before a show, a portrait made by my neighbor Rick Olivier, whose Azalea People series is a worth a browse.

Some other random visuals I’ve been digging: behind-the-scenes shots from the making of The Mosquito Coast, a weird book-turned-Harrison-Ford-film I’ve never seen.

Something hits home here — the aloha shirt may only be timely for the fact that I should be at Jazz Fest right now. But also, that photographer’s big-ass camera reminds me of my own Pentax. This photograph is my style icon — simplicity, comfort, and a watchful amount of chill pizzaz.

The above Stephen Stills track, ‘Old Times Good Times’, which features wonderful licks from Jimi Hendrix, caught me off guard with some strangely familiar lyrics:

When I was young and needed my time alone
Jump in the pirogue, pole down the Bayou
Bogue Falaya River was dark and cold
Seven years old, I couldn't find my way home

Old times, good times
Old times, good times

When I was twelve, I learned how to play the guitar
Got myself a job in a jax beer bar
Got myself together, went to New Orleans
Found myself workin' for rice and beans

Old times, good times
Old times, good times

You drop ‘Bogue Falaya’ in a song and you know I won’t miss that. Too much a homer!


“What keeps my heart awake is colorful silence.”
— Claude Monet