If On A Winter’s Day, a Lesson was Learned in a Pleasing Way
Several weeks ago on one of the many mangy-cold Saturdays of this stingy season, I went thrifting. At one of my favorite shops, The Clothes Rack, I sorted through winter coats--I really feel one cannot have enough of them—before I decided to hunt for housewares. I did not find the cast-iron skillet I coveted; but I saw a signed and beautifully framed print of what I thought were Richmond city scenes, and I eagerly scooped it up.
As I checked out, the manager queried, “So you’re a fan of Patrick Duffey?”
“Not yet, but I am a fan of RVA, and aren’t these city scenes?” I proffered sincerely.
“Yes,” she said, satisfied. “He was very popular here in the nineties.”
“I will look him up.”
I confess that I have not as yet done so, but I can say that daily, as I glance over at the picture--so interestingly accomplished in blues and red--I appreciate Duffey’s techniques and subject.
I would not call myself settled—I am, for instance, still decorating, but, as a one-year resident, I am a fervent fan of RVA. I am not sure how we--my old white station wagon, even-older red farm truck, grizzled Chihuahua, podgy bulldog, and I--ended up in this South of the James neighborhood, but I am happy that it did.
Falling in love with Richmond was something of a While You Were Sleeping syndrome. In February 2017, on another wintry Saturday, I drove to Richmond to attend a University of Richmond film festival. I meant to make the 8:00 a.m. movie, but I either overslept, ran into traffic, or both. I decided to stay and attend the second film—a three-D feature—instead. It was Pina, Wim Wenders’ 2011 masterful documentary of German choreographer Pina Bausch. I was wonderstruck. The way that her 1982 piece “Nelken” depicts the changing of the seasons and change in general was philosophy made visceral. The way that Wenders fused dance with film was also almost kinesthetic.
To finish the day, I decided to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. I felt obligated to see the Johns and Munch exhibit that had received so much positive press. Their connection, while not far-fetched, seemed somewhat exaggerated to me; however, after such a morning, I felt I could afford to be generous, and I went with open mind.
That mind was blown, as one of my students might say. The exhibit’s title, “Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life,” highlighted its theme, the juxtaposition of these two artists’ famous works accentuated their shared interest in seasonal changes and the broader stages of life. Again. And again.
And I got it. What had been a genuine but mostly intellectual appreciation of New Orleans, of the city and her residents’ embrace of change—both sudden and cyclic--finally became internalized. It sunk in, in other words.
I have been so lucky in my locations. My hometown was on the Guadalupe; both college towns were on rivers also, the Brazos and the Colorado; and I love the Red River in Shreveport; but the way that the Mississippi in New Orleans and the James in Richmond wind themselves into the soul of the city seems unique.
So as I station in RVA on my life’s journey, I want to thank our editors and contributors for continuing the family focus from 2018’s Katrina issue. The recent government shut-down and the current talk of emergency appropriations for the wall somewhat obscure the human-interest aspect of this immigration crisis. That essential facet must not be forgotten. As we go to press, news reports indicate that more than 160 Texas detainees have contracted mumps (Houston Public Media; The Texas Tribune, 3/4/19). Other news outlets, including The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, reveal that on the first of March, twenty-nine previously deported Central American parents returned to the U. S., seeking both asylum and re-unification with their children.
NOLA DIASPORA’s Mardi Gras 2019 issue salutes the inaugural march of the Krewe de Mayahuel, whose founding and philosophy support the healing racial and ethnic divisions.
“At some point I remember saying, there is no Mexicans represented in the culture of New Orleans," said 52-year-old Roberto Carrillo, a native of Mexico City who is one of Mayahuel's founders. He moved to New Orleans 13 years ago along with a wave of other Mexican immigrant construction workers after Hurricane Katrina.
"Parading in the soul of New Orleans, you show the world what you think," he said. (Guzman-Lopez, 3/4/19)
The issue includes several sketches from the Paris Sequence of Shreveport sculpture Bruce Allen and three paintings from the Mardi Gras series by New Orleanian Moira Crone, a talented and award-winning writer who has recently started working in this second medium.
The issue also showcases more members of the Kamenetz family, with two poems from NPR correspondent, educational critic, and public intellectual Anya Kamenetz, and three poems (from Dream Logic, forthcoming from Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2020) from her father, Rodger Kamenetz, renowned for his memoirs, poetry, and non-fiction prose as well as his dream-work.
The issue also contains a review of the memoir of Centenary Professor Emeritus Earle Labor, The Far Music, and combines the city’s One Book One New Orleans 2019 selection, Zachary Lazar’s Vengeance, with Valerie Martin’s Trespass (2007) in a review exploring how issues of immigration and incarceration define our time.
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