Category Archives: Navel-gazing


…don’t worry, I haven’t written one. I had to write a journal entry in my English class about my favorite book, short story or poem; an easy assignment because of all the ones I love, I immediately knew which one I wanted to write about.

My favorite poem is The Barrel-Organ by Alfred Noyes. I first came across this poem in an English Lit textbook I bought at a garage sale (I snap up any old literature textbook I come across). It was written in 1958 and it is long – 135 lines. Its length is why I can never convince anybody else to read it. A poem that long requires a certain amount of commitment, even to a poetry lover. The first few lines, though, reveal an irresistible rhythm that pulls you through the rest of it. It’s easily the most musical poem I’ve ever read; it has an unusual rhyme scheme and the tempo changes several times when the focus shifts.

There’s a barrel-organ carolling across a golden street

In the City as the sun sinks low;

And the music’s not immortal; but the world has made it sweet

And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;

And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain

That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;

And they’ve given it a glory and a part to play again

In the Symphony that rules the day and night.

The poem is set in London and describes the inner lives of people on the street within hearing distance f the organ. It speaks of the influence of music on humans. It illustrates the timelessness and necessity of music – how it shapes our actions and then sings of them after they’re done. It bears witness to all of humanity’s triumphs and follies. It cheers us, comforts us, rocks us to sleep and jolts us awake. The Barrel-Organ is glittering, gritty and beautiful, just like the city in which it is set.

This thing makes me so happy that if I had the brain space to devote to it, I’d spend my life trying to memorize it. I absolutely adore it.

Take the epic-poem challenge. Read the bitch. If you like poetry even a little, you won’t regret it.



“Here’s to the boys back in 628, where an ear to the wall was a twist of fate.”  These lyrics refer to a pack of vicious gossips, overheard by the narrator while talking a bunch of smack about him.   This tickled me when I first heard the story behind it, because 628 is the telephone exchange of the small town where I grew up and, as the saying goes, a more wretched hive of scum and villainy is scarcely to be found.

Well, okay, so that’s an exaggeration.  But, as I found out when I ventured out to work in surrounding cities, we do have a reputation for being a hardheaded, clannish, unpleasant people, and it’s not entirely unfounded.  I never really wondered about this – I hated that reputation and found it embarrassing, but it was what it was – but  I never thought about it until recently.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Huey Long, A Biography By T. Harry Williams.  I thought I was going to read a biography of, you know, Huey Long, but first I was treated to a pretty frank and commonsense summing-up of the parish where I was born and raised (we don’t have counties here in Louisiana, we have parishes).  Back when Louisiana was being settled, the area that would become Winn Parish didn’t have much to recommend it, according to T. Harry, whom I assume knows what he’s talking about.  The soil was too poor for farming, really, and there was nothing to trade (this is before the lumber industry took ahold).  The people who settled here were, by necessity, stubborn and possibly delusional. They were a people not much swayed by others’ opinions, and of this select group of settlers, even fewer dug their heels in hard enough to find success.  What success they did find was pitiful by wealthier parishes’ standards, but Winn Parish people likely neither realized that nor would’ve cared much if they had.  When the regional climate turned rebellious in the 1860s, Winn Parish collectively spat on the ground and instructed their delegate to vote against secession.  They weren’t slaveholders, they reasoned; it wasn’t their war.  The delegate shared this view and voted the Winn Parish conscience, and when outvoted, refused to sign off on the decision.  (He did, however, dutifully raise a force to send to fight for the Confederacy.) This was the climate that produced Earl and Huey Long, the former a poster child for Winn Parish jackassery and the latter a perfect storm of intellect, ambition and ruthlessness.

My takeaway from this, filtered through my own experience, is that if you have roots here (my own family has buried our sixth generation at Pleasant Hill cemetery), you likely have a strong streak of stubbornness running through you.  This can be a fine thing if it’s tempered with the thoughtfulness and purpose exhibited by our ancestors.  The “Winnians” of today, though, tend to have this manifest in what can only be described as douchebag behavior; insular, unthinking, a backwoods strain of pigheadedness that’s no credit to anyone.   It’s unfortunate, because we can be so much better than we are. We have the blueprints; we have the inherited ability. It’s a good thing the dead can’t reanimate, as it’s my belief that if our forefathers could see how we’ve squandered their legacy, they would summarily kick the shit out of us.


I lost my job last week, and I miss it.  Well, that’s not entirely true; my job was something of a clusterfuck, and the company I worked for was the Walmart of the industry.  I miss my field, though.  I heard someone on a TV show mention an unusual diagnosis, and I got a little pang.  I’m hopeful that I’ll find something else in the field soon.

In the meantime, though, I’ve discovered something shocking; I’m not nearly as lazy as I like to think I am.  This is breaking news to me, because it seemed like I spent at least 50% of my work hours wishing I was taking a nap, fantasizing about all the nothing I could be doing at a given moment, and planning weekends filled with glorious idleness.  Today marks 1 week jobless, and I’m going spare over here.  It seems a body can only stalk Facebook, make lyrics videos, listen to music and nap so much before it loses its charm.  I need to be doing something.

That’s another thing that has come as a bit of a shock.  I’m not nearly as good at sitting around as I thought.  I was sitting around on Facebook and my ass yesterday, and realized I needed to go clean something.  Quelle horreur!  I, voluntarily doing housework?!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted to find out I’m not quite as worthless as previously imagined.  They say job loss is a time for self-reevaluation.  I guess I’ll have to cross “full-time hedonist” off my list of ambitions.


Old vehicle = old stereo.  Old stereo = old music formats.  Old music formats = rediscovering forgotten music from one’s youth.  Ohai, Tears For Fears.

Roland Orzabal.  All I’m gonna say is, any guy capable of writing the lyrics he does deserves all the panties thrown at him.   Intelligent, thoughtful, interested in psychology, kind of a feminist – okay, a little goofy-looking* but y’all know I dig that – pretty eyes and great hair.  Why did I not notice this when I was 16?

Oh yeah; Peter Tork, that’s why.  (Why, hello again, Monkees; we got reacquainted this time last year with Davy’s passing.)  Peter.  Sigh.  That dimple!  The swingy blond hair, mischievous eyes and bright smile.  And that dimple.  It deserved its own show.   He was in his 40s by the time I discovered the show in syndication, but I didn’t care.   I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he’s much smarter than the character he played (see above re:  intelligent and thoughtful) but the sweetness, I believe, is innate to both Peter the character and Peter the man.   Did I mention the dimple?

Ho-oh-ohh-oh-oh-ohhoward Jones.  In a word, eccentric.  Odd-looking, kinda hyper, British.  Just my type.

Mick Hucknall, whose voice still has power over me.

“Our” music shapes us, no matter when we take possession of it.  It encodes itself into our DNA and helps make us who we are.  It’s how we explain ourselves to ourselves and how we try to explain ourselves to others.  But for teenage girls, good music made by cute boys has a little extra mojo.  Hell, the music doesn’t even have to be good if the boy is cute enough.

And with that, I’m off to go “read it in the books, in the crannies and the nooks there are books to read!”  ♪ ♥ ♫


*This is a dirty lie, and I don’t know why I told it.  That man is hot as hell.   We didn’t have MTV when I was a kid, and it’s a good thing because if I’d ever seen that video with him in geek glasses reading the paper in bed, I’d have done groundbreaking work in the field of celebrity stalking.


Everybody has those few moments of shining brilliance that stand out like beacons in their memory; even I do.  What I also have, though, are equally clear memories of epic derpitude.

Second grade:  Miss Martin crawling my ass because of the way I put the rick-rack on my pantyhose-egg Easter project.  I liked my egg; I hadn’t realized there was a right or a wrong way to put rick-rack on a pantyhose container; guess I was mistaken.  The term “absent-minded” was used.

Fifth grade:   Gazing out the window on a balmy spring afternoon, only to be record-scratched back to the present by the dread sound of my name being called.  For what?  To answer a question?  Was it a fire drill?  Perhaps my hair was on fire?  My panic was equal to any of the three.

Eleventh grade English:  I trudged to Mrs. Little’s desk for a book report.  The look of brow-raising contempt on her face as I held the book out to her was my first indication that I’d done something wrong.  She took the book gingerly, like a foul thing, and for the first time I was introduced to the concept of class reading lists.  My classmates had evidently been aware of this since the beginning of the year.  Suffice it to say, my book wasn’t on the list.

Eleventh grade English, part II:  We’d been studying haiku, a lesson which terminated with each of us standing and reciting one of our own composition.  I was chosen to follow Rusty, a rough country boy who’d just delivered an unexpectedly delicate and lovely haiku.  I don’t remember mine, but the subject was dawn and the feeling when one witnesses the birth of a new day.  As I finished, Mrs. Little, evidently still annoyed by the book report, said, “You’re never up at dawn, are you?”  Honesty compelled me to admit I never had been, and I was allowed to retake my seat.

Eleventh grade English, part III:  We were called upon to grade each others’ assignments by passing them back one seat.  Billy got mine.  Now, Billy was a smart guy and, I thought, a stand-up guy as well.  Therefore I couldn’t understand why he felt the need to clarify with Mrs. Little that it was unacceptable for me to have responded to the short essay question with dialogue from the previous night’s episode of Miami Vice.   (I still have no idea how that happened.)

My mother had long since resigned herself to my average and below-average grades (though a memorable reaction from her when I brought home my first failing report card stays in my memory) and bewildered reports from teachers mentioning my potential if I would only apply myself.  Apply myself.  I had no idea how.  I wasn’t even sure what that meant.  As early as seventh grade, some of my classmates already knew where they were going to go to college and what they wanted to study.  I could barely keep track of assignments due the next day.  I tried to pay attention in class, but very little held my interest.  My mind drifted and I would savagely yank it back, only to find it drifting again.  I floated through school, very much on a day-to-day basis.  I doodled.  I’m sure I daydreamed.  One teacher told my mother that I hid a paperback inside my textbook, but I can state that that never happened.  I’d have been far too afraid to try something like that.  That was too … premeditated, and none of what I did was premeditated.  I didn’t act, I reacted.

The teachers eventually gave up.  I’d been in a gifted and talented program in elementary school, due, I guess, to a small talent with drawing, but it ended and was never mentioned again.  Within a couple of years, my difficulty with mathematic concepts landed me in what I now realize was a special ed class with two boys.  We didn’t do anything (literally, we did nothing.  The teacher was an elderly woman and rarely showed up.  We drew on the board, mostly).  I transferred the next year and found myself…floating.  Even if I’d realized I needed help, I wouldn’t have known where to turn.  I thought my experience was normal, and that my difficulties were because I was stupid.  Hell, that’s what my teachers thought, and I had no better explanation.   I had no choice but to go with it.  I muddled through my classes, sporadically turning in assignments (one teacher showed my poor mother columns and columns of assignments I’d apparently just ignored.  I probably tuned out the class instructions).

Despite these lowlights, I managed to graduate from high school and on time, though I was nobody’s idea of a scholar.  College never crossed my mind, though I attempted trade school for a semester.  I left to go work and then got married.  My husband, a born educator, helped me to realize that the problem was not low intelligence (that’s another post!) but that assurance was empty.  I remembered the helpless feeling of my mind drifting away, and the problem had hounded me through my work life.  I’d lost jobs because of it, and had never been able to even hang onto a hobby.  The thought of having children and all that goes along with it was quite out of the question.

Twenty years went by, and a chance conversation on an internet forum flipped a switch in my mind.  I’d heard of attention-deficit disorder, but I’d only applied it to little kids.  When I read a list of symptoms and tendencies, though, I realized that nearly every one of them described me, for as far back as I could remember.  I read more about it, and it explained everything.  To say it was a revelation is a hilarious understatement.  It was as though someone had written an article with the express purpose of explaining me to myself.

That was five or so years ago.  I’d love to report that everything has changed, that I immediately began to apply myself and got a better job and a better house and a better car and an education.  None of those things has happened.  I struggle every day.  I take Adderall when I can afford it, and it helps.  I use the coping mechanisms that I spent my life unwittingly developing.  I ask for understanding and sometimes I get it.  The main change is that I go easier on myself now.  I’m not stupid; I never was.  I know my limitations and how to work around them, and I’m a lot more comfortable asking for help.  ADD explains me, but it doesn’t define me.

Damn ADD

I had an idea for a blog post.  I composed it in my head while I was in the shower.

I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen, trying to re-trace through all that to get to the original point.  FML

“Least said is easiest mended”

That’s my mother’s favorite expression, and I was raised on it, or at least her interpretation of it.  Never argue.  Never confront.  Never have an opinion, or at least, never express it.  Non-confrontation was her MO and she passed it on to me; I’ve spent years in self-rehab for it.  Confrontation isn’t pleasant, but it’s necessary.  You can go through life without ever confronting anyone, but the flip side of that, too often, is never standing up for yourself.  My mistake was believing that assertiveness is synonymous with aggression, but it turns out you can possess a backbone without devolving into an ass.  Luckily, they’re not the same body part.  🙂

I still try to live by Mom’s motto, but with my own interpretation.  Speak your piece simply, and resist the temptation of embellishing it.  Say what you need to say and be prepared to own it.  The owning is easier if you consider your words before you say them.  (More politicians should try it, but that’s another post for another day.)