this is not a love story


but a love song. i am hooked on hunting for the hardest moments to articulate. the inexplicable convergence of emotion, sound, light, surprise, joy, and discomfort are my first loves. i am a writer because i believe in the shared experience. i am often overwhelmed by moments that are only just slightly my own, but more kaleidoscope, adjacent and communal experience that have the power to sweep us into a greater mosaic. i find this feeling in music, often. i find it especially in music made by large groups that bring into their fold the spirit of simultaneity. having never been much of a joiner myself; acts of unison and synchronicity have fascinated and moved me always. i love marching bands, organized sports, audiences, public transportation and so on. the momentum it takes to organize for the purposes to reach a shared goal is thrilling and can easily go overlooked.

recently during a visit to new orleans my heart broke. the poem, "The City In Which I Love You," by Li -Young Lee, turned like an old 45 in my chest along with the echo of gospel, ragtime, and a distant clarinet. all harmonizing and reaching deep in just in time to put my heart back together, only so i could feel it fall apart all over again. i can only attempt to put into words the spaces that go empty that then get filled when i am in that city.

histories upon histories fill the unearthed sidewalks, and still there is music everywhere. the wholeness in all that is shattered is like nothing, like outer space, like a tropical rainstorm that drifts over the world as you wake up and remember what you have lost. and still the light shines bright into spaces that nothing else can get to.

the arms of the streets and noise and heat and complexity wrap around me until i am just a window. you can see through me now waving in the hot air, vibrating against the crowd and the trumpet and the procession, and how you celebrate death. like a gigantic tear pooling at the those war torn feet, cooling off in the brass and midday vapors until you find something cold to drink.

the bar next door has a courtyard shaped like a horseshoe. each night there is live music, from latin, to jazz, to blues, to funk, and ballads. on this night there was a slight and ageless japanese woman wrapped in a cotton robe and headband with traditional patterns threaded into its fabric performing taiko, traditional japanese drumming. she was raising money for her small coastal town in japan that had suffered severe damage in the tsunami. she lives in new orleans now.

before performing she seemed nervous and fairy like. when she took the space in the horseshoe for playing she filled it with a spirited and emotional translation of the practiced art of taiko. in the marginy, a french quarter adjacent vein in new orleans, she wailed out to the seas and fishermen and beat our chests with her drum. the tectonic plates shifted beneath all of us, we felt the storm, and fault lines, the levees, and rising water.

she went deeper into the sound and got lifted into the air above us all–the hemispheres met and embraced. a prayer for this moment and each one to follow. the sound stopped and the exhale of natural disaster was left hovering on her fingertips.

dear new orleans, i love you everywhere i am. get healed. take this tonic. native and feathery and heavy. the sun will be burning. you are dancing. the world will just have to understand in its way, i guess. thank you for reminding me what is too easy to forget.