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.