Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Orleans 2

   When I wrote my last piece on New Orleans in 2012, I never had any intention of living here. The typical “If you had told me a year ago that I’d be living in New Orleans, I would have called you crazy.” But alas, here I am. Life has a way of taking us wherever it wants us, despite any plans or ideas we might have about our own destiny.

   I’ll be the first to admit, I’m jaded. Coming here was a decision made with feverish haste in a highly confused and emotional state of mind. Brash in nature and skewed in true intent, it wasn’t a thought out or well planned idea. Instead, it was a blind toss of the dice. A gamble, a chance, a shot in the dark. At the time, it looked like the only viable option. Do I regret it? No. I can’t. Then my time here will have been a washed up wasted experience. So instead of regret, the time is being used to develop a new perspective on life. Develop a plan and implement that plan. Parts of the plan are moving along nicely. Other parts are rocky and abstract. We’ll see if life will let me have this plan or not. When you really get down to it, it’s not really in my hands in the first place.

   But I digress; this is supposed to be about New Orleans. The point? I can’t currently separate the two. New Orleans and my life are one and the same right now. I wrote in my last piece that New Orleans is recovering well. After taking a much closer look, I’m not really sure anymore. I moved here the week of Mardi Gras, right to the Marigny, right in the middle of the mess. The introduction was striking. The waste and garbage, in line with that of Bonnaroo (if not worse). But it is, of course, expected during Mardi Gras. What throws you off is when the hedonism, the waste, and the mess doesn’t stop when Mardi Gras is over. New Orleans, right down to the core, feels broken. I often get the same feeling here that I had in Burma. Everything seems ok and feels like it works. But it always feels like a city that’s on the brink of its tipping point. Like it could all just go to shit at any time, for any reason. It’s an uneasy feeling that you can’t ever escape. The sad and often uneasy part is that we know exactly what happens here when it does all tip. And we all know that it’s going to happen again. The questions is when, not if.  It’s a city that somehow functions, but for no good reason at all.
Working in Oil and Gas has changed my perspective of the world drastically. I have learned so much about myself and even more about people and the way they are influenced by each other and by their environment. We are, without a doubt, products of our environment. Enough said.

  A harsh sense of negativity about a place is not how I want to leave anyone feeling. New Orleans does have an excess of good things. Excess, in the truest sense of the word, is the very backbone of the city. The food here? Excessively good. Four months and I haven’t had a bad meal yet. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it for the rest of my life. New Orleans is one of the best food cities I have ever experienced. The fact that Michelin doesn’t rate restaurants here is confusing and almost concerning. Very few places take such a strong sense of pride in their food. There are, without a doubt, restaurants here that deserve Michelin stars. Art, music, performance, the city is overrun with amazing artists and artisans. Every corner brings a new talent. The tunes of jazz and blues charm me just as much as they did when I got here. The city has a uniquely beautiful culture.

   New Orleans is a city of harsh contrasts. I feel privileged to spend some time here. I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s a complex ecosystem that thrives on itself. It would take a lifetime just to begin to understand what goes on here. It’s like its own little country. And maybe it should be.

This city is not my home. And it never will be. The story doesn’t stop here. This is just another stop on my great adventure. This experience has given me a new, revitalized love for Chattanooga. I can try to deny it, but it’s my true home. It always has been and I guess it always will be. New Orleans is a great place to visit. But there’s no place like home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

To Tattoo

            This one, this beautiful new piece of artwork on my right ribs, this tattoo, this pain, this passion. This one is here to represent my love for the written word. This is here for the person that drove me to these words, the people in my life that know the value of the story. My passion in life is that of the story. I may spend (too much of) my time at work, climbing stairs, rigging ropes, driving around, sitting, waiting. But I’m here for the word. My passion is the story, the art, the quest.
Each tattoo is here on my flesh to remind me of something. To be a talisman of a feeling, a want, a desire. For those who have left us behind, for my love of the theatre, for my love of love itself, for my love of travel, and for my love of the art of the story. They appear on me like a mismatched and confused collage, the point perhaps lost on most. They seem random, confused, and the true meaning of absurd. But they, like my own life, require a much deeper delve into my own workings. Muddled, random, having no order, just like my life has been.
If you were to take a slice of my past and compare it with another slice of my same life, you would be confused as to how they make up the same person. Living in China working for the circus. Living in a hotel in Texas climbing wind turbines. Living in Tennessee attending college for theatre. Living in New Orleans supervising NDT ropes technicians. Working as a dishwasher at a Thai restaurant.  Walking on I-beams in concert arenas. Traveling across Morocco. Walking down a beautiful piece of property. Unemployed sleeping on couches. I could go on. But we all know the story. The story of where I am, where I’ve come from. We only don’t know where I’m going.
And when I found the person that would complete this new artwork, I was relieved. My other tattoos came quickly as ideas and just as quickly ended up on my body. But this one was different. My homage to a masterwork. It had to be right. Not only right, but perfect. Finding the right artist was difficult, challenging frustrating. I went through many people looking for a proper match. But when it happened, it clicked and the collaboration was perfect. Jennifer Edge at Mainline Ink in Chattanooga, Tennessee. What better place to take the journey than my home?

The headspace that you develop during a tattoo of this scale and in this location is meditative and even spiritual. The pain, seeming like a distant memory right before you start, becomes very real very quickly. Harnessing our inner Buddha is all but necessary. It becomes a rewarding exercise of localizing the pain, putting yourself in a state of total concentration and focus and simply existing and accepting the pain. This collaboration is just as much about you receiving the work properly as it is about the artist performing the skill properly. The design, the consultations, the preparation, nothing can prepare you for the experience of being a living canvas for an amazing artist. Nothing has been art until now. Preparation has set us up for success, but the art comes when the needle touches. And now, there is no turning back. The pain is agonizing, but every time, it is surprisingly rewarding. You aren’t only purchasing a piece of art, you’re earning it. And if you’ve done it right, it’s for you and you alone. It’s custom in the truest sense of the word. Some people say tattoos don’t hurt. Good for those people. Lucky them. Not me.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We have more to go. This art is not complete. The story will continue. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Maldives

Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy something so incredibly beautiful when you know that it’s quickly going to come to an end. It’s hard to embrace the time you have left, because you never ever ever want to give up what you have in that moment. You dread the ever-approaching time when you will have to give it up, much like Faustus in his last moments. Because what could possibly be better than this? How could anything ever compare? Will it be possible to find any meaning in life afterwards? Do you even deserve this in the first place? Or have you somehow tricked the system? Cheated life and gotten ahead for a short spell? Will you be punished later for this experience, to set the balance of the universe back on its proper course? Can you destroy something by loving it too much?
The Maldives. One of the strongest undeserved treats of my life. The experience starts well before you land in Male. Flying in; an appetizer of epic proportion. How can a place like this exist? How am I here? How have we not already destroyed this? This is too beautiful to survive the ugly world that we’ve made. The contrast from the starving millions just up the road in India is too strong to sustain. You think you’re prepared for it. You think you’ve looked at enough photos on google images to understand what is waiting on you. And then presumption leaves you. And your jaw drops. And there are no words to be said. And you know that your camera has become useless and your pen has become sterile. Because yet again, words, written or spoke, have no meaning. And no camera on earth can do a place like this justice. A camera cannot capture the breeze. A pen cannot transfer the sand from my toes to yours. My typewriter cannot explain my taste buds, cannot make you feel anything like their experience that week. No words can explain the joy of walking off of my back porch directly into the most clearly vibrant water on earth. No campfire story can explain what’s it’s like knowing that there is probably a shark or a stingray under your bed. My goosebumps can’t explain stepping out of an incredible shower into an incredible breeze and watching an incredible sunset with an incredible person. Words are useless when you’re landing on a seaplane in the middle of the ocean, knowing what awaits you. Or, atleast, thinking you might have an idea. But you don’t. You don’t know luxury until you come here. You don’t know what it is to pamper yourself. You don’t know what it is to be completely spoiled rotten to the very core. You don’t know what it’s like to spend this kind of experience with a beautiful Angel by your side, every step of the way.
            But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The Maldives is in desperate trouble. And if things continue on this course for this tiny country, it will soon be gone, washed away by the tide. Destroyed by the very world that created it. Extinction of an entire culture, an entire way of life. KA is a wheel. It will take back everything that it has made. And I will be one of the lucky ones that got to see it and as much else of this beautiful world as I can before it’s too late.

            So for the first time, I’ll say this. Don’t go to the Maldives. I was selfish and went. And in going, in supporting its economy and embracing what it has to share, I took steps to destroy it. So leave the Maldives for me. If you don’t go, I might get to one more time. You go somewhere else. You don’t deserve this place. You don’t deserve it any more than I did.