Saturday, March 21, 2015

Graffiti, Big Charity & The Sleeping Man

I rolled out of bed fifteen kinds of disheveled and half-dressed. Slid on a trucker hat and punched through a tank top. I got about 1000 words down on the page (I never count, so I mostly know it was more than ten), and hit the road. The streets where pretty settled as I snapped pics of graffiti and the New Orleans Scooter Rally.

Scooter Ride down Carrolton Ave.

Cutting through the various 

One Way

streets, I saw Big Charity Hospital's weathered body hauntingly punctuating downtown. This is a place I've wanted to see ... needed to see. After watching the documentary Big Charity (director Alexander John Glustrom) as part of the Patois Film Festival, I really wanted to bare witness to the space that was destroyed not by Hurricane Katrina. Rather it was the victim of Disaster Capitalism. Which is a no bueno, so the film had hit me in all those places that make you outraged. As a non-New Orleanian though, I could only begin to imagine what the loss of one of America's most charitable hospitals was for this city. Especially for those who did not have the means to get health care anywhere else. 

Big Charity's entry is gated and barb wired.

When I was leaving, I ended up on the backside of the hospital. This is what I saw. 

I pulled the car over because I didn't know if he was dead or alive. The only part of him that was moving was his windbreaker. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. Kind of like watching the plastic bag scene in the film American Beauty. Only there were no screenwriters or actors or cameras writing this poetic moment for The Sleeping Man.

Part of any city life is a homeless population, and New Orleans has a sizable one. But this man (I assumed the male gender) was splayed along the sidewalk in a way I didn't often see. 

I wanted to approach him and see if he was okay. As okay as anyone is sleeping on a sidewalk in the 80 degree heat in a dark jacket. But there I was on the backside of the now defunct hospital of hope. There weren't a lot of people around. What if I startled him? The likelihood of him brandishing a weapon wasn't implausible. 

But I couldn't just drive on. It just felt wrong.

So I sat there. I sat and waited. Waited for some part of him to move that wasn't just his windbreaker. After awhile, a guy walking on the opposite side of the street, took a few glances at The Sleeping Man. Curious but not enough to even pause.

Then a curvy woman ambled along, saddling a duffle bag, and she crossed the street to avoid The Sleeping Man.  

But I waited.

Because if he didn't move, I'd have to call the police. Not because he was an eyesore. Because he was a human being lying in the middle of the sidewalk behind Big Charity and maybe he was hurt or stupid drunk or just lost inside. As someone who had been homeless, I got the lost part. Even if I never had to sleep on sidewalks in the middle of the morning.

Then --

His right leg slowly dragged to the side. His arms struggled to bend and extend. He was a 100 year old tree creaking right then. His body shifted in the slightest and had anyone been driving by, they wouldn't have noticed. 

After a moment, I drove away. Thinking about The Sleeping Man and his story and Big Charity whose motto was:

Where Miracles Happen And The Unusual Occurred

As I drove beneath the underpass, I saw shopping carts and overflowing garbage bags. I saw a lot of people down on their luck who had constructed makeshift housing beneath the hum of Interstate 10. Did they know The Sleeping Man?

When I finally stepped into my four temporary walls with a roof, I kept thinking how relieved I was that The Sleeping Man moved. How he hadn't just died there with everyone walking by. And maybe I would never know his story, but I saw him. 

I didn't just drive on. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Greatest Show On Earth

"OMG! The Acro-Cats are in town!" said my friend Margaret Saturday afternoon.
And with two exclamatory statements, began my ascent to the higher knowledge of the Greatest Show On Earth: The Amazing Acro-Cats also featuring The Rock-Cats. 

Not Actual Event Poster.
If you are still on the curious, this circus minus a big top, features abandoned felines who are click-trained and treat rewarded to perform a version of daredevil tricks. The feisty, female cat dominated troupe can jump through hoops, zig and zag through elevated agility drills and even push a child's toy car.
Example Only. Not Used In Actual Performance.
And if you land the equivalent to nose bleed seats (I was in pre-nose bleed), no worries. You can watch the show displayed on a 45 inch television via the Cat-Cam.

Yes, there is such a thing, and why not?

These cuties are famous after all. Featured in both The Guinness Book of World Records for longest cat jump and Ripley's Believe It Or Not for only cat band in the world.

Now, I should mention not every member in The Rock-Cats is, well, a cat. Chicken, Cluck Norris, has a heavy heated peck on cymbal and tambourine.

Cluck Norris, badass chicken percussionist.

This amazing, good-time event is the result of animal activist Samantha Martin. She founded Acro-Cats in 2005, and they hit the road to travel the U.S. from Chicago in an RV early 2009.

When the RV hit the skids, a Kickstarter enabled this traveling troupe to acquire a plush ride.

Purrr-rifcate Front

Sassy Bus Side

I know, right? Them wheels are s w e e t !

Now, it isn't all grilled chicken chunks and oven baked salmon for the cats plus other animal pals. This cause with paws pays it forward everywhere they go. Each performance contributes profits to local animal programs. Through the troupe's travel, Martin and gang have secured homes for over 140 cats.

Not too shabby. Meow if you love it!

Buffy, Oz, Winke and a host of other cats, mice, a groundhog and of course, Cluck Norris all perform around the star of the event, Tuna.

Photo Cred: @mags504 

Tuna is the founding member who will always give you more cowbell, ring the bell and high five, so long as you respect she is the grand gato of the show. And you can photo-op post show with the Tuna but are advised not to cuddle unless you wanna rumble. She's an independent woman and kinda a big deal. Not only is she the face of the show but Tuna is the star of the Student Emmy and Oscar Winning short film Zeke. Where she channeled her inner maleness in the role of Zeke. 

The Sunday crowd here in New Orleans was an almost sell-out. Kids and adults cheered on the acrobatics and circus fair tricks. We got the brief history of how each cat became part of the troupe. The stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming.

I  have never been a fan of the circus. Seeing animals made to perform for profit, it just felt wrong somehow. But this campy little troupe of underdogs (undercats if you fancy) that travels the U.S. and Canada promotes all the right kind of messages. So, I'm a fan for life as I'm sending a Tweet to Tuna right now.

Wanna catch a show or follow the cats on their Twitter accounts?


Tuna For President!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Fat Day, Selfies & Why All The Love

This is not my real hair.
I just celebrated my first Mardi Gras last week. First thing to know. It was cold by New Orleans (NOLA) standards. Thank the Universe, Buddha, the Goddess whoever you will for encouraging mi amiga, Watson, for making sure I owned a jacket. 

So I scored a lot of beads without lifting my shirt once and skipped the alcohol consumption because it’s not really my jam. And I had an amazing time because I snapped a series of selfies with random people and asked them what they loved most about the Mardi Gras experience. 

"Everybody gettin' down on the streets 
and havin' a good time together."
"This! This is it. This is that moment."
"Costumes, creativity. Everything."
"Look around you, man. This ..."

Bonus Pic 'cause dude's costumes is beast.

Grand Budapest Hotel
Radio station bumper stickers.

I only have an eye for you, baby.
"Used car lots!"

"OMG! All these crazy fucking people letting loose 
for a day. I love how everybody is celebrating life. 
You can feel it in the energy."
Unicorns or bust! 
Cards Against Humanity timeout.
Sunset Jacket.
"The glitter. These people all around me.
I love that I'm spending it in this community."
"It's really inspiring. How everyone is
doing their thing and not afraid of
doing it."
Speaker system for street dancing.
Random Cool Bike + Woman
Bloody Mary topped with bacon, jalapeƱos
& cheese on a bun.
"The craziness. You can do anything.
And Beads!!!"
"The community & the costumes and the glitter." 
"Coming out and seeing all the costumes."
Street Art
Puddle reflection.
Sticker Art
"Having ____ in the _______ of a dark ______." 

"The soul. The jazz. The freeness. It's just a good vibe."
"Wait? What's the question?"
And that's a few moments from the streets of New Orleans on Fat Tuesday 2015. Thanks for the memories.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sometimes You Miss It

Steve Perry sang it best, "The road ain't no place to start a family," and so goes the life of the accidental gypsy.

Corpus Christi, Texas. 
Pop. 300,000 +

What to know about the big CC? One of the windiest cities in America, home to a gigantic warship, death place of Selena and a number two party spot for Spring Breakers. 

And for me right now the place where I slept through the 5:15 A.M. alarm and have missed my flight back to New Orleans where I currently have a front room futon with my name on it. 

I never miss a flight. 
I never botch travel. 
It's kinda become my #2 best thing. 

Universal intervention? Difficult to say, but it sure makes for a strange in what was to be an otherwise ordinary day. I'm still drop dead fool tired and not sure what method of transport will get me back to NOLA. 

One thing is for sure. I'm not thumbing it. 

The view from the 7th floor Shoreline Drive hotel is snazzy. It overlooks the luscious possibilities of the Gulf of Mexico. Joggers on the jog. Birds on the perch. Empty white legless benches just waiting. And the water ... there it is just moving. 

Breakfast taquitos are in my immediate future, and I've got a rental car until 4pm I think. That's long enough to consider the possibilities of the universe deep fried on a stick and crack out a few pages on a novel. It's long enough to maybe see my childhood friend Jody over a Texas Sized cup of Sweet Tea and reminance of when I useta steal his toys for two days, play with them and bring them back for another set. Sort of a community share program implemented by me, myself and the I. 

What a weird kid I was ... what a weird adult I still am. 

So maybe Steve Perry was right. About the road. But it is definitely a place to hear someone else's story and continue to write your own. 

Peace, kindness and rock the word!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How We Win

Author Barry Lyga gave a keynote at YAK Fest 2015 about how life is about failing. How we learn and grow from the very act of not succeeding. And for all Barry's success, the man has failed a lot.

So often we are told to be the best. Number one at all costs. Perfection without rejection. Zero failure. But that is soooooo loaded. By whose standards are these? More often than not, they aren't our own and so plays that Song of the Year

"You + Failure = Bad"

And maybe it's some version of Iggy Azalea and/or Drake singin' in your head:

Let me hear you
Hate on me
'Cause I suck at everything
Never get it right
Let me hear you hate on me

'Cause I fail shit all the time ...
Everything I do ain't right
Why even try?
I hate on me

And we learn this degrading tune, making it out mantra. 


Now, I'm not suggesting failing out of school, failing to pay your phone bill or even failing to take personal responsibility for your actions is on the up and cool so you can "learn." That would be a negatory. 

What I believe is that we get knocked down. Sometimes a little harder than expected or needed, but it is how we rise back up. How we stand in our self when back on our two badass feet that determines the "what's next."

Yeah, I know. This is all a little woo-heavy. Humor me. It's a day in the week ending in "Y," and I am thinking on this because it has circled in conversation all around me lately. 



How the Double F has so much power in grid locking us from taking reasonable risks. Like risks when writing, drawing, painting, slamming -- speaking our truth or passion through image. How this Double F keeps us from being heard. 

What if I fail?

I say fail. Word!

I dare you to fail. Fail with abandon and absolute unbridled you-missed-the-mark. 

You will grow.

Multiple award-winning author Pat Zietlow Miller received 126 rejection letters before publishing her first book. 126! That's a whole lotta fail, but ask her if she didn't grow. 

I tell my friends when they are afraid to ask someone for what they need, "What's the worst thing that can happen? They can say no, right? Well, if you don't ask, it's already a no."

We are so terrified to be made vulnerable and real and possibly be rejected. It keeps us from reaching our potential. Then we get all manifesty and scream the profane at some dude or dudette that cut us off on I-99. Or we self-deprecate when we feel vulnerable. Fear and the possibility of failure keeps us trapped. 


I'm an author, a filmmaker and artivist. I dream big and hard and live with a lot of passion, hope and creativity. It's not a perfect life, but as lives go I'm lucky. See, I get to excite and empower young people ... I have this precious opportunity to mirror back their best selves. And working with them mirrors to me things I never imagined I could do. But I have failed A LOT to get to this place. 

Repeat the lyric: But I have failed A LOT to get to this place. 

And I will fail again. 

Because in this epic result of human imperfection, I, like you, can't always get it right. But what I can do and what you can do is make that failure your teacher. Learn from it. Don't hit Repeat bad mantra song. 

Write a new ending. One where you don't stop living your hope, truth and voice because you are afraid ...

To fail.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kisses, Heartache & Celebrations

New Orleans, LA
Day Before Fat Tuesday

The film the Peaceful Warrior streams in HD. A cold front blows through scratching loose leaf limbs against the house. And then a neighbor's wind chimes call me to that place where I had my first real kiss in tiny town Mathis, Texas. 

Population: itty on the bitty. 

Everyone knows the first one. Where the space between breath and lips is an eternity. Where it kinda feels like the half-time Super Bowl show is happening. Dancing sharks. Big lights. Missy Elliot stealing the stage. And that's just a moment in the hang-time.

Yeah, so kisses. And cold fronts, wind chimes and the stale smell of chili, and a memory of south Texas and Richard Marx's Endless Summer Nights on vinyl. (And this is pre hipster reclaim of the spin). 

And life was soooo hard back then in sooo many ways, but still, there was a first kiss ... That didn't suck. 

That was before Columbine. That was before September 11th. That was before the world falling down inside the classrooms and from thousands of feet up. That was before Mike Brown and Trayvon and three students slain in Chapel Hill. That was before some of those horrors and heartaches began living in our souls. 

Topic. Shift. 

I was standing on a street corner on Orleans Ave Saturday. Showed up a few hours before the shoulder-to-shoulder people in motion Endymion parade. Nothing but a backpack and the curiosity for what NOLA calls Mardi Gras. 

I don't drink, drug, smoke or engage in the regional debauchery. There is still fun to be had. I walked the streets. Peeling though the peeps and kept my ear to the stories. People say all kinda of truths when they think no one is listening. 

And along Orleans Ave, under a tree draped in colored beads I saw this guy and gal. It was a first kiss moment. The soundtrack of their scene was Trombone Shorty, a woman hollering at her son and sirens from squad car cruisers. And I don't think it mattered because they had that exchange in the range between eyes and uncertain lips. 

They had that first kiss. Different than mine and probably yours. But it was theirs and ironically on V-Day. 

I take pics of every little thing but this ... it didn't seem mine to take. This was their moment to light up. To have butter and flies or Whatev. For a moment, the chaos of the world and even my own life softened. 

It was about this. Just this.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Let's Be Honest ..

February 14, 2014Love Day 

I am terrible at the art of blogging. At this hour, 1:47 in the a.m. I am wiped out. Sleeping in an airport in baggy shorts and chill worthy temps teeters on the suckage. My meal consisted of a $1.50 bag of peanuts with the blare of CNN as white noise.

Haven't done this airport smash-crash since January 2014. That was Philly. Epic snow. On the lamb from the Polar Vortex, a soon to be failed relationship and the heartbreak of not having somewhere I could call home. Destination then: California.

It's been over a year. So much has gone down. No doubt. Feature documentary completed. Sold fourth novel. Six weeks in Belgium. Played said documentary across America including the State Capitol of Texas via the Texas Book Festival. 

I've seen young people moved by the movie and I've seen adults moved. I've watched what is the beginning of the creative revolution. Including the nonprofit Never Counted Out. A foundation to bridge the gap between artist and youth on the fringe. A foundation functioning from the goal of access. 

So yeah, I'm terrible at the art of said blogging and my goal in 2015 is that I will do better. But for all those of you wondering, I am out here -- doing for as many people as I can. 

Because I believe the life you change may be the life that changes another to achieve even a heighter sense of greatness. 

So, yes. Welcome to the creative revolution!