Saturday, May 10, 2014

Easter lilies!

Back when I was in my first parish, I took pity on the Easter lilies that didn't get picked up after Easter. I brought them home and planted them in the yard. I quickly learned that if I kept adopting orphaned Easter lilies, it wouldn't be long before I had a yard full of them. So I gritted my teeth and let them go...some of them, anyway.

The year we had a heat wave just after Easter, I went into the sanctuary at the end of the week after Easter (like most sane pastors, I took the week off after Easter) and found the abandoned lilies dead from the heat and lack of water. That was sad, tossing out all those dead lilies. But I learned to steel myself and not take responsibility for lilies other people had failed to take home with them.

Anyway...ten years later, I'm retired from ministry and gardening like crazy. And I now have three patches of Easter lilies in my yard. Guess what? They multiply over time.

And this week they came into bloom, two weeks after Easter, dozens and dozens of lilies. If we hadn't had such a long cold winter in New Orleans, they might have bloomed for Easter, since it was almost as late as it can get this year (April 20).

Do see the post in my blog New Life in the North Country, July 23, 2013. In the North Country, climate zone 5b, they bloom in July. At least in New Orleans, climate zone 9b, they bloom during the Easter season!

Oh by the way...for all my New Orleans friends...everything else may be running two weeks behind schedule, but tonight, May 10, the termites are swarming around the outdoor floodlights. They must have calendars. Right on schedule!

Monday, March 24, 2014

What I'm reading

This is my first attempt at writing a blog post with my iPad. I've been having difficulty working in Blogger with IE10, so I thought I'd try working in Safari. Seems a lot more compatible, but I can't say     I'm not crazy about writing on an iPad keyboard. Yes, I do have a "real" keyboard for this thing, but I've forgotten how to use it. But that is another blog post.

     The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival was terrific. This was my first time attending, and I was duly impressed with the professionalism of the presenters. There were several tracks to choose from. I attended the Master Classes and literary panels. I purchased books by two of the presenters (some of the titles sold out, which is a Good Thing if you are a writer!) -- Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan, P.I. Novel What the Dead Know and Knitting Yarns, a collection of essays by writers on knitting, edited by Ann Hood. Today I picked up her novel The Obituary Writer at the library. I've added a couple of other writers' books to my Amazon wish list. I think I am set for reading for the next few months.

    And yes, I'm working on my own novel right now. The classes and panels gave me a much-needed boost in that department. When I read what I've been working on and think it's dreck (now there's a word I haven't seen or heard in a long time!), I remember that these authors' novels that I hold in my hand are the result of multiple revisions and didn't start life as brilliant works of writing. It takes time. It takes multiple revisions. It takes patience. And, as one author told us, it takes a thick skin. Words to live by.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A tourist in my own home town

This week/weekend I'm attending the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in the French Quarter. Just finished two days of Master Classes for writers at The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street. Great classes, spot-on topics (for me, anyway). Two writer-lecturers were particularly helpful: Laura Lippman, author of the Tess Monaghan P.I. novels, spoke on point of view, and I learned some ideas about it have changed since I studied it in high school and college. And Ann Hood talked about the "art" of revision -- it's far more than fixing commas or spelling errors! I bought her new book, Knitting Yarns, and she autographed it (actually she's the editor). Knitting Yarns is a collection of 27 essays by writers about knitting. I've been knitting now for a little less than two years. As a pastor, I knew it was a spiritual practice, but who knew that writers knit too? Seems to me the connection between writing novels and knitting projects is that both take a long time to finish and a lot of patience! And sometimes you have to rip out a bunch of stuff you did because there's a mistake back there...

Anyway, when I took the streetcar to the French Quarter on the first day, I tried to remember the last time I'd been down there and I couldn't. My last memory is more than ten years ago, which is something I probably shouldn't confess. I'm like a New Yorker who has never been inside the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. In my youth, I used to go down to the Quarter just about every weekend, albeit to buy underground newspapers from hippies who sold them on street corners to pick up a little money. As an adult, sadly enough, I never go to the Quarter unless I have a reason to be there, like to meet friends from out of town for a meal. I've missed a lot.

In some cases, being down there felt like a bad case of "Ain't Dere No More." The buildings are still there, but the businesses have changed. With a shock I remembered how I used to drool over the display windows of Hurwitz-Mintz, the furniture store on Royal Street, when I was in my teens. Now the Royal Street windows are used by an antique shop (still displaying beautiful furniture), and Hurwitz-Mintz has a huge store out in the 'burbs. And a number of their beautiful pieces now grace my home. Sometimes it is good to grow up and be able to afford those things you could only dream about when you were young.

But the Quarter is humming with new shops (new to me, anyway) and lots of tourists, even on a weekday in March, which, by the way, is a good time to visit New Orleans, before the hot weather sets in. Street musicians can be found on each block of Royal, playing a variety of music from jazz to blues to bluegrass. And the city really is cleaning the streets early every morning. When I'd walk down Royal early in the morning, I could still see the suds at the curbs.

I stopped in at 520 Royal, the former home of WDSU-TV. A gas-light maker now occupies that space. I walked through the main corridor out to a courtyard in the back. I had never seen it before "for real." But I have a painting over the fireplace in my dining room of this courtyard, described as "Brulatour Court," done in the 1930s by the well-known New Orleans artist H. Alvin Sharpe early in his career. My grandfather must have been impressed with his work, because there are several of his pieces in the house. Wow. I had never seen the real deal before, because it was part of the TV station's headquarters. It was neat to see it at last.

If you live elsewhere and are still wondering if the city has come back after Katrina, let me remind you that the Quarter didn't flood -- it's the original city and was built on high ground -- and damage from the storm was relatively minor. That said, things are booming and there are more restaurants than you can ever dream of eating in, even if you live here. Come on down.

On another note, for months now Blogger has been whining that it doesn't support my Internet browser. It's Internet Explorer 10, people. Upgrade your software. I don't know of any other websites that are having problems with it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

About that pony...

We were downtown on Valentine's Day, meeting friends for dinner. There was an NBA All-Star Jam going on at the Morial Convention Center, which was probably a mile from where we were, but the streets were where the jam was. A police escort was taking some of the celebrities down Poydras Street in the direction of the convention center (maybe coming from the Superdome?) and traffic was a mess.

However! I am the eternal optimist! I am the child who finds the pile of manure at the front door on Christmas morning and starts jumping up and down, because I know there's got to be a pony around somewhere!

Four years ago, when we left New Orleans for upstate New York, downtown New Orleans was a ghost town. The Central Business District was darn scary even in the daytime. One day I suggested to a friend that we meet at a certain (fairly new) restaurant in the building that was once Sears' downtown store. When we got there, the place was locked up and the chairs were piled upside down on the tables. It had closed. And darned if we could even find another restaurant in the neighborhood. It was one dusty glass storefront window after another, covered with brown butcher paper.

So, four years later, we're home, and stuck in traffic in downtown New Orleans at night! Welcome back, downtown! And welcome back, us!