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All About Katrina

This is the moment I remember most vividly.

He rode up from nowhere, set down his bike, and filled the empty street with song. After collecting a meager tip, he rode off into the day, leaving nothing but the echoes of a voice I’ll never forget. A voice that demanded to be heard.

I felt so thankful for that moment with my husband, children, and parents.

We were in the middle of a cross-country drive, a family trip to my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. This stop in New Orleans was a highlight … on so many levels. Delicious Bloody Mary’s, plates full of every culinary form of Crawfish imaginable, a first taste of Oysters Rockefeller for my children and, ohhhh! The beignets and cafe’ au lait from Cafe Du Monde! It was a feast for the palate and the senses, an experience with family that remains unrivaled, and a life-moment that stands firm in my memory.

It must be mentioned, it was also the time my son saw his first “lady of the evening”, albeit, it was ten o’clock in the morning. Framed in a peeling-painted doorway on Bourbon Street that Sunday, she was a vision. Dressed in a filmy, white peignoir, cigarette in hand, long dark legs crossed just so. My twelve year old boy was mesmerized, as was I. She was a canvas of haunted loveliness that seemed, at once, out of place and also right at home on that historic street still holding the sights and smells from the previous night’s bacchanal.

It’s surprising anything else could rival that first sight in NOLA but a riverboat excursion across the great Mississippi River, a tour to see old Mardi Gras Parade floats, loads of silliness with street performers, and our day was almost complete. The final act was performed by a man whose name I’ll never know and whose fate I’ll always dream about.

From nowhere he came and in an instant, he owned our attention. I didn’t recognize the song but I remember how it made me feel. It filled that empty street with it’s raw power and I was humbled in its enormity. With his remarkably soulful talent, why was this beautiful gift of a man living so tattered a life? Why was he not performing at Carnegie Hall, on Broadway? Why was the tip of a few dollars enough for him? Most importantly, why did I let him leave after only one song? It was the blink of an eye and he was gone.

It’s as if he was almost never even there and because of Katrina, I’ll never know his fate.

Less than one month later, Hurricane Katrina horrified the French Quarter and much of New Orleans. It was the day after my son’s 13th birthday. I remember standing speechless in front of my television, watching news of the waters taking over the city we had just left. I felt it in my gut and in my heart. I worried over my family and my friends who were directly impacted. I watched it all, riveted. We were so far away and there was so little we could do.

By the time displaced NOLA residents were arriving in Phoenix, we had joined in to collect and deliver basic health and wellness items and were rallying ongoing support. Such contributions were helpful and appreciated by those in need but the fact was, it couldn’t rewind the clock. The losses were huge and the memories became sacred. For us and for everyone affected by the wrath of Katrina and the destruction of a city that was so very loved.

For a long time, as computer-saved photos would cycle on my screen, it seemed that more often than not I would look up to catch the photo of this favorite memory from New Orleans. The man who sang to us on an empty street. At some point, this man I never really met became my association to Hurricane Katrina. He represented all of the complexities of that moment in time. It was raw and it was complicated but it all meant so much. And so did he.

With the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, along with my son’s 22nd birthday, I’m feeling the need to finally share the story of a man who has become a part of my consciousness. A man I’ll never forget from a city I’ll always love.

When I go back to New Orleans, and I will, I’ll have his song in my heart.

Namaste.

 

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All About a Southern Superhero

I had the honor of meeting Eudora Welty in 1985 while employed at Woodland Hills Office Supply, located in Jackson, Mississippi.  She came into our store weekly with stacks of paper to Xerox and stood silently at that machine for up to an hour at times, lovingly making copies of each and every one of her handwritten pages.

I was fascinated with that tiny little woman.

Though I had been told who she was, I was still too young to understand just what Ms. Welty would represent to me later in life.  She’s an amazing example of the combined southern tradition, fierce intelligence, and creative independence that wasn’t often seen in women of her time, much less, M’issippi girls.

She’s one of my super heroes.

The following post was published on Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street blog May 19, 2014.  Our thanks to Mr. Parrish for his kind words and generous review of Ms. Welty’s cover letter written to The New York Post:

In March of 1933, Eudora Welty, then 23 and looking for writing work, sent this beautiful letter to the offices of The New Yorker. “It’s difficult,” writes Shaun Usher in his introduction to the letter in Letters of Note, “to imagine a more endearingly written introduction to one’s talents.”

March 15, 1933

Gentlemen,

I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.

I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930– 31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’ 29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.

As to what I might do for you— I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works—quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph. How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning— a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.

There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.

The New Yorker, missing the obvious talent, ignored her plea before eventually correcting their mistake. Welty went on to win multiple awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1973 for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter.

 

“All serious daring starts from within.”

One of my favorite quotes happens to be from Eudora Welty.  Ms. Welty’s spunk and brilliance is part of what inspires this girl!

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All About Girls is Here!

All About Girls

Hello world … All About Girls has arrived!  We’re looking forward to sharing interesting, educational and down right compelling girl news with you!!

To give y’all a bit of background, while serving as a crisis pregnancy Peer Counselor, our founder identified significant gaps in puberty education for girls which were and still are a significant contributor to the astronomical rates of teen pregnancies and high risk behaviors.  The need for current, factual, and accessible information and outreach was clear.  All About Girls was established in March 2009 and through our workshops and presentations, we’ve reached 122 girls and their moms by providing education on important topics surrounding puberty, relationships, sexuality, and substance abuse.  We currently host a Facebook audience of more than 700 and our Twitter followers are increasing daily.  We’re honored to work alongside many amazing girl-focused organizations and though our mission is gender based, we realize the importance of educating all young people — we regularly give the boys and dads shout outs — and those who care about them.

Thank you for joining us here and please let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear more about!

(Above is our signature daisy logo, created by good friend and renowned Arizona artist, Frank Ybarra. A pop of colors, a dash of whimsy and a tag line that says it all!)