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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: New Orleans' Ethiopian; Retreat 2011; The Angies and Poetry 
26th-Jul-2011 11:33 pm
Tetons and Me
My journal's been on the fritz for a few days (as has my hot water, but I don't think they're related) and so I'm actually slightly stunned to see my update page load finally, after a few days of desultory attempts. Not all the features seem to be working, but here goes. (I hope I don't lose all this: I hate that.) I've continued to get out a bit more, and haven't really felt nauseated from the antibiotics for about a week now, which has been a huge relief. I went out on Friday (or Saturday? Okay, maybe the meds still have me a bit fuzzy...) with Tim and Minoo and a friend of theirs, a lovely young MD from India named Maya, who's in town for a few weeks as she's applying for residency programs in internal medicine in the States. We made an abortive attempt at going to the Rock 'n' Bowl, where Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters were on the stage that night, but it looked like the place was pretty much given over to a few private parties/reunions, so we decided to bail and went down to Magazine Street where Tim introduced me to a really good Ethiopian restaurant called the Cafe Abyssinia. I had tried the two Ethiopian restaurants in Milwaukee with the gang, and had never gotten over-excited at what I had, but this place was scrumpdillyicious. Set back from the street, it very much fell into the advice I received from Jeanne, the New Orleans-enthusiast who cut my hair in Milwaukee, that when in New Orleans, look at the food and not the restaurant. Like a lot of great New Orleans places, from the outside it looks like a real hole, akin to the South Bend horror of Fat Shirley's, but inside it was neat and comfortable, for what looks to be a restaurant in an old garage. I had the Tibs ("Lean beef cubed and sauteed in onions, garlic and peppers"), which also came with a lentil mash that was really tasty. Maybe it wasn't the most adventurous thing I could have ordered, but it was enjoyable through and through, as was the conversation, which played a lot with India (where Tim and Minoo met as students), the fun of cultural differences, and food.

Lots of email bouncing around as this weekend's rendezvous at Winterwood Lakeside Cottage draws close. The same guys from last year will all make it – me, McGlinn, Fleming, Scott, Wurtzie, and Henri – and I am looking forward to it, almost more with relief than excitement. I've been on edge in case this infection flares up again and I had to bail, and so I didn't want to dare to hope that I'd make it after feeling so crappy for so long. Having paid for all this back in March, this was the one piece of travel that was definitely on the books for the Worst Summer Ever, which otherwise has been nothing but wishful thinking and good intentions. So, lots of email about menu-planning and food, while now I'm wishing that I wasn't so rusty in my guitar playing, and that I could get calluses on my fingers and maybe get my playing back up to the "sucky" level in the next few days.

Some other interesting email exchanges provided some entertainment this week, too, whether some interesting political commentary on the debt that Dan circulated to me, Harris, and Bob, or whether a note on poetry that Angelia sent out to me and Angie W., containing a poem Angela had written for Angelia's wedding, and asking us if Angela and I were still writing poetry, as we both did quite a bit back at LOMC in 1989 (Best Summer Ever), and if not, why we weren't. That was actually interesting to think about, as poetry had long since fallen out of my imagination. And so I wrote:
As to poetry today, no, I've not written poetry (or "verse" as I started to call it, as I was pretty sure I fell well short of "poetry") in years. Since 1994 or '95, I think, and those were dim echoes of the earlier waves of production. I think that's for a few reasons. First, my poetry writing workshop with Midwestern Zen poet Lucien Stryk really burnt me out, and perhaps made me aware that this was not my gift, however much I had hoped or dreamt otherwise. But more than that, I think, it's because my notebooks of verse were oftentimes really a distracted or sublimated kind of journaling. What I really wanted to be doing was journaling, but I wasn't quite "there" yet. I had made a few attempts at becoming a steady journaler, but I was A) full of far more teen/undergraduate drama drama drama than I realized, and thus B) was not yet really writing for me but for whichever anonymous person would discover my journals, presumably after a dramatic teen early and tragic death. My sense today is that I'd say I have more of an interest in autobiography, not, I hope, in quite so a full-of-myself way, but because I realize both the extraordinary, one-time sort of gift my life is, and because I find that an attentiveness to the experience of living my life is something that gives me a sensitivity to the currents and dramas within the lives of other people, and of the movement of the Spirit of God in all our histories. Lastly, my verse writing was always driven by my musical interests, especially in the richer lyrical content of what was then called (still?) "alternative" music over the lyrics typical of mainstream pop music. When I actually fell into the Freeks circle at Notre Dame and began to be surrounded by productive musicians, and learned from them enough guitar to be able to write and to gather a band around me, I became what I probably wanted to be all along in my poetry writing: a lyricist and singer/songwriter. And I think that the (frequently) bad writing of my undergraduate days was the production and practice I needed in order to become a pretty good lyricist and songwriter (if I say so myself). :-) Still, there are lines here and there in the older writing that I still think are pretty killer, and that I could adapt into songs in the future, although now, with the Notre Dame crowd pretty spread out now, too, there's no longer that active circle of musicians drawing music out of me. I haven't finished a song in over five years now, I think. I turned my attention to the doctoral work after finishing my CD during my coursework (which was insane), and that and journaling have been my primary artistic outlets since then, to the extent that they are artistic, I suppose.
I hadn't really thought all that out, before, and so it was an interesting question for Angie to have tossed out to us.
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