Friday, October 22, 2010

"used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that"

Yesterday in my literary criticism class, we were talking about Lacan's Mirror Stage and my teacher kept restating what the Mirror Stage was and how it "works." He followed this by saying, "I know I'm repeating myself, but this is a difficult point to understand. Difficult but important."

Sometimes I feel like that's the importance of this blog for me. I know I write a lot about the same topics, sometimes in the same way. But I'm going through something so huge right now, that I have to keep re-articulating it to myself, in every way that I know how to understand it because it's important to me to get it down. Important because I know I will want to read this over at some point in the future and I will want to know/reexperience what I was feeling here.

And in that vein of Lacan (sorry guys, we're taking a trip down psychoanalytic lane), I keep thinking to myself that the words are never going to be enough, that they will never be able to express the cadence of the emotions I've experienced in these past few months--those things are bigger than language, but the realm of language is all I have to express them, so I have to keep repeating it with all the words I know, cover as many facets of it as possible and hope that I'm giving myself a picture complete enough that I'll be able to evoke some of those feelings.

So I hope I don't become too irritating when I try to express all this clutter in my head, when I re-express it over and over and over.

Living in New Orleans is funny for me. Growing up so close to NOLA has the duel function of giving me more than a passing familiarity with the city but, within that, an understanding of how dear New Orleanians hold their city. The other day, I was talking to Erin and we talked about Chicago winter. She said she was scared of it and I said, "But once you get through it, you'll be a true Chicagoean!" And perhaps (of COURSE) a native Chicagoean would have something to say about that, but it's a measure of...of what? Of being true to a city, I suppose. But here, I always have Katrina lurking in the background, that thought of the worst thing one could tough out in this city, the biggest thing it could demand of its residents. When people from New Orleans talk about New Orleans, they are almost always talking about the city in pre and post terms. It has become one of those defining moments for New Orleans. I wasn't here for that and I'm glad I wasn't, but in some sense, Katrina put up a wall. You can belong to this city, you can call yourself a New Orleanian and embrace this culture, but if you want to be embraced in return, there's a certain amount of work to do and a piece of yourself that I think you must be willing to give.

I grew up loving New Orleans in a way that many who grew up in South Louisiana are probably familiar with--loving it as a city of escape. But moving here, being here, has been a metamorphosis of that love. I started wanting to belong here, be someone of here. I can imagine how this pales in comparison to the love of this city that a native feels, but it grows everyday. It grows when I merge on the interstate and pass the Superdome, when I have to take a "New Orleans left" to get home, when I drive down St. Charles, when I walk to is that part of myself that is giving itself over to becoming one with this place, that is becoming inextricably attached to everything that New Orleans represents for me. And I think that, mostly, that's what this city demands. An unbreakable commitment that is beyond expression, but not beyond feeling.

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