On the third anniversary of the Gulf Coast oil spill

It was the year of the worst disaster.
That summer we went to parties
where everyone stuffed overworked bits
of strangers’ DNA in donated tranny
pantyhose, and when the first black balls
came clean, two hundred miles upshore
they were golf pebbles, then
cantaloupes, that inexplicably solid
cancer of the sea. Our own cancer

had metastasized to its pulsing final stage.
So you breathed in tubes and skimmed
the surface after days of specialized training
and I wore summer frocks to the parties
and drank lemonade and carried rice krispy
trays and the clippings from when
we did the dog. And even then, the cancer grew.
Even then, only May and already
it’s sweltering.

Just out of grad school, I spent awhile in my home state of Mississippi. That summer, we had the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Now I live in Arkansas, about 20 miles from Mayflower, where, a few weeks ago, an Exxon pipe burst. I wrote this in 2010. We’re just a few days past the third anniversary of the BP spill, and it’s happening all over again. Of course, it never really stopped happening.

Remembering Boston

Been thinking about Boston a lot, obviously, so I’ve post this entry, from an old blog I kept years ago (long since removed from the Interweb). I wrote it after my first trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving 2006, after my dramatic and somewhat unproductive move to Los Angeles in January 2006. So these are some of the reasons I fell in love with Beantown, the last place that, even now, seven years later, really felt like home.

The list originally contained 20 items, but I removed a few that seemed, in retrospect, too humiliating to share. (Kept that old blog anonymously, btw.)

Boston. Would be most appropo to make a list:

1) No, I did not pretend to be anyone’s fiancé.
2) Yes, I did pretend to be my gay friend’s girlfriend for a brief moment, albeit, without his concession. (What can I say? He’s a beautiful man.)
3) Boston is very much New England. Mostly, Boston is New England in the Forest Hills Cemetery, strolling through crunchy leaves and perusing academic conversation with a passionate, well-informed girlfriend. Pausing to read ee cummings at the laureate’s grave. Ah, “girlboys” and “boygirls.” ee was an preliminary gender activist, unawares. How fitting, he should rest in JP.
4) JP love triangles. JP is small-town Boston. Would expound, but it gets too incriminating and incestual.
5) If you’ve ever volunteered at Bikes Not Bombs, you are separated from any other volunteer by no more than two degrees of coital partnering (see point 5).
6) Wallys is Boston does Chicago.
7) Beware of Scientologists in Harvard Square. They’re off “Personality Tests,” onto “Stress Tests.” Take it from a wizened Angeleno.
8) Some varieties of pancakes served by Sorellas: pumpkin cranberry walnut, topped with strawberries and cream cheese; hazelnut chocolate chip oatmeal, topped with powdered sugar and pecans; gingerbread coconut vegan buckwheat jalapeño delight, topped with cheese whiz and cinnamon sprinkles. (ok, so that last one was made up. But don’t get me started on the omelets!)
9) My sister had this big-deal surprise for me. Turned out to be a chocolate buffet. Those two little words are very inadequate. Tables laden beyond imagination. Fountains flowing with milk and chocolate (and milk chocolate, and nice gesture, complementary coffee). Crepe station, ice cream bar, crème brulee, mousse, tarts, etc. It was like a dream. Or, three plates later, a nightmare.
10) Queer dance party, old school style. An invented dance involving jumping jacks. I will try and incorporate this move at every dance party, ever after.
11) James Gate and Guinness, and winter Sam Adams. Familiar nachos, familiar faces, cozy fire, good friends, debaucherous conversation. I love you, JP.
12) Cheese alert: saw the Departed (actually filmed in Dorchester) the very day I visited ye old homestead in Southie. I love movies where the tuff-talkin’ Irish lads sleep with classy lassies from across the River (read: Harvard).
13) After-theater (read: Nutcracker) drinks in the North End, and how everything is brick.
14) When I was little, I preferred the Sugar Plum pas de duex, all romance and pink froth. But for a good decade now, the dark, enigmatic Arabian (coffee) has been my favorite. Hmn, wonder if this has anything to do with puberty?
15) Government Center at night.
16) Cambridge Pumpkin Ale.
17) While in Boston, my grubby hands were graced with the promise of auditory pleasure (thank you, my little music-mixers!) Somewhere over Indiana, these lines made me sad: “please remember me, fondly/ I heard from someone you’re still pretty/ and then, they went on to say/ that the pearly gates/ had some eloquent graffiti”
18) I know, I know, I’m stopping here. But I think Gael Garcia Bernal was on my flight back to Los Angeles. (?!)

Anyhow, Boston felt the same. Like I was there yesterday, rather than a year and a half ago. Like nothing ever changes. And I love the city, and I love the people, and I think I’ve done this awful thing to myself, where I’ve so scattered my affections, that everywhere and nowhere is home. I wonder if hundreds of years ago, everyone had it right? Stay in your hometown, marry locally, and keep your dear near. Because every parting feels like a rip, and then I get to LA and instantly Boston’s far and foreign, and these palm trees and mountains, the friends that call to bitch in traffic, that becomes home…but still, oh Boston…

Wilcox County Prom

I wrote about Wilcox County, Georgia’s prom struggles about five years ago, as my  thesis for Columbia Journalism School. In 2009, one motivated woman and a handful of student supporters tried to throw Wilcox County High’s first ever integrated prom. The result was a bit lackluster. Now some kids are trying again.