An iPod touch, wi-fi settings and a pleading nephew...

by tosca on Sunday, March 29, 2009

There is nothing like a child to remind one that life goes on. Even when you don't think it should. And most especially when you're not quite ready for it to. Trace's mama gave me her iPod touch. I initially refused because it felt too final a step. was an admission that she really is gone. Theoretically I know it, and certainly at the service last Wednesday I saw it, but that doesn't mean it's actually clicked. I spent a couple of hours at Mama Munns' house catching up, chatting and helping the ladies update their own various iPod songs/playlists. We then looked through some of Trace's numerous cds with photos of everything from gravestones, family members both past and present/young and old and sightseeing pictures. I discovered some new things about Trace I never knew - for instance, she took some damn good photos. There was a disc that had the most amazing pictures of a park and when I zeroed in on a few details I realised that they were actually of Mountfort Park. And never had I seen that place look so beautiful. Ever. Trace had a damn good eye! And then I remembered her telling someone that she was once asked if she would sell her pictures. I told Mama Munns that her stuff would make a fantastic book. Especially in light of the negative reputation Manurewa has :-)

Mama Munns said to take the iPod home and delete all of Trace's music and make my own mark. I seemed weird. I couldn't even bring myself to touch it at first. It sat, for the first hour or two after I got home, untouched (kinda goes against the whole point of its name), on the dining room table. I wouldn't switch it on, I wouldn't even browse through her collection. It just sat there. My brother-in-law touched it and I'm afraid I nutted off at him and he quickly put it back. I somehow think I may have overreacted so I doubt he'll even look at it sideways let alone touch it again. Then Markhiem came over to visit and promptly plugged it in to re-charge - all without asking, I might add. The boy is worse than me with IT toys - no boundaries whatsoever and, once spotted, gotta turn it every which way but loose to figure out how it works. Once he saw that it had Safari (which is what they use at school) he wheedled, pleaded and begged until I agreed to configure the wi-fi settings. He had to work for it though - I made him figure out how to find the IP address, subnet mask, router and DNS details. Unfortunately, it was a trial and error process - and so I made him use Google to troubleshoot when we, scarily, somehow lost wifi access on my laptop and had to ruddy well re-configure that, too. That was NOT a good moment and I'd be thankful not to go through it again hah. I'm sure Markie'd be glad if he didn't have to hear every terribly inventive use of the 'F' word I ever stored in my repertoire :) He's stoked that the wireless is up and running on the iPod touch and no doubt he'll be back tomorrow playing with it again.

I've spent the last half hour going through her playlists and realised that music and books can tell you a lot about a person. They make you realise how well you knew them, and I think also confirm how little you really knew about them at one and the same time. A lot of her music was no surprise - the opera, the country, the musicals, the classical - but quite a bit of it was new to what I thought I knew of her - R&B, soul, 60s & 70s, Alicia Keys, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Richard Marx, Shakespeare's Sister...and a whole host of other stuff that was a delightful surprise. I imagine that the iPod will sit around for a while longer before I feel like adding anything to it. Hell, I may never add to it. I also imagine that Markie will be the only one to play with it for a while to come.

It must be time for me to get back on track with the point of this blog - it's been so long I may have forgotten ;) The format was something like this:

- NZ public libraries and the web 2.0 tools they're using
- anything of interest - and yes I do mean anything (books, music, people whatever)
- infodoodads Top 13 list (and when I run out of those I'll simply find some other list)
- book-related sites or blogs of interest (or even just what I'm reading atm)
- learning 2.1 tutorial (until I finish the list)

Peace, love & mungbeans, baby.

In the sweet by and by...

by tosca on Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grief is such a deeply personal process. I will say no more about my own feelings.

Although not religious Tracy was deeply spiritual. A more positive person I would be hard pressed to find. I like to think that Tracy would have enjoyed this song - I never met a person who had such a huge appreciation of music. Most especially opera, modern musicals, the 80s and country. She would have gotten a hoot out of a country icon such as Dolly singing with Irish group Altan in this very Celtic sounding version of what is an old country gospel classic.

I remember my liking for the Ten Tenors began with Tracy. She had spare tickets and asked me if I was interested in attending. I remember making the rather rude comment, 'Ten Tenors? One is bad enough but ten is just overkill!' I went. And I had a great time LOL I have been a fan of their music and style ever since. I do wonder...knowing Tracy's love of opera, and my being named for one, would she have approached me if my name were Mary...? LOL A small common point of interest that culminated in a very, very good friend.

She lived, and loved, with great passion and great heart ;-)

Moe mai ra i raro i te korowai aroha o te Atua.

On reflection...

by tosca on Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's impossible, either in writing or speech, to convey the many impressions, thoughts, ideas etc. that I gained during my (just short of) 3 weeks Stateside. And it'd be crazy for me to assume I ever could...but I did jot down a few notes if I remembered to, and one thing that tops the list is PRIVACY - or lack thereof.

PRIVACY - it's insane and an awful generalisation but the Americans I met who were very friendly, and in New Orleans they all are, in Memphis not so much (they weren't horrid, they just weren't as open as New Orleaninians) the 'term' privacy was not much more than a word. They were quite happy to tell all and sundry about their day, their family, their son/daughter or husband/wife or brother/sister or mother/father. They were also quite happy to hold extremely personal conversations on their mobile phone in enclosed spaces (such as on the Amtrak). In the space of one hour I overheard: a woman crying on the phone to her mother after her son upset her; another woman talking to her cousin about how she had to come back to raise the siblings she thought she'd left behind forever; a couple discussing whether or not they would have enough money to get through the week; a young girl blithely stating to one of two boyfriends (she discussed that freely with both of them, too, the fact that they were one of two LOL) that she definitely didn't have enough money for a hotel room but it'd work out somehow; another young lass talking about how she had to catch the train into New Orleans each week because she couldn't find work anywhere in Memphis; a young man earnestly discussing why he felt his relationship wasn't working with his girlfriend; another young man talking to his parole officer about job opportunities...the list goes on and on. But it's done in such an engaging fashion that the most you can do is think loudly in your head about something else and look like you're not actively listening, even though you unconsciously do. You can't help it! And they also think nothing of turning that insatiable curiosity on you - err or me, rather. They wanna know why you have an accent, where are you from, what do you do, are you married, why not, do you got kids, why not, don't you like children (in a tone that suggests there's something wrong with you if you don't and they'll have no problem letting you know they think that LOL) etc. But it's so engagingly done you answer it all and then realise what happened LOL

ADS - what is with the ads?! A number of them caught my eye for the strangest of reasons. I've got a bunch of ads here for a variety of reasons (humour, weirdness appeal, health warnings that make you sit up and go WTF? and other stuff) so kick back and enjoy. Quilted Northern ad with the tagline '...a luxurious experience you can see and feel.' Guess what they were advertising - quilted toilet paper. For real and you can check it out for yourself. Umm if you're not delighted you can get your money back. Which part of you is meant to be delighted?!? Then there's the Blackberry butt dialing ad - heh it's funny. Just one comment! Why doesn't he lock his Blackberry Pearl? I've got one and I lock it (not that my butt tries ringing anyone because I don't keep it in a back pocket D'OH). Ok another comment! Blackberry's gone FLIP? Why? I love that they weren't! Another ad is the T-Mobile MyFaves ad with the single dating dad - with kids like that who needs enemies geez LOL The Free Credit Report ads are especially hilarious and my pick is the Dream Girl one. Umm he'd be a happy bachelor if he'd had just checked her credit before marrying his dream girl. Uh-huh. Pull the other one. You can view ALL of the Free Credit Report ads if you want. The Talk To Your Kids About Sex PSA (public service announcement) is gave me that ohmygod-I-never-want-to-discuss-this-topic-with-any-kid-let-alone-my-own-please-god-never feeling when it asks parents to be upfront about sexual discussion with their kids because it can't be taught in schools anymore. But I liked this ad better because no matter how old my nehpews/niece get they're always going to be our puddinheads LOL (hopefully without coming to me for the sex talk bah humbug). I found the Online Booty Call ad rather...odd. And disturbing but judge for yourself. Although I was quite glad that ad didn't play as much as the e-Harmony ad but even that made me wonder what the obsession is with settling down and why they had to hammer their point home in every commercial break. Bleah. I thought the Denis Leary ad for Rescue Me was funny (esp the bit where the clumsy guy falls over but I like slapstick comedy) with the giant firefighters but damned if I can find a version of it (prob not looking properly ack). A couple of medical alert ads I found uhh strange: Lyrica and PDD/SJS but can't find nothing for them either *sigh*. Nevermind.

PHONES - cellphones are everywhere here. Maybe it's because it's such a huge country that I noticed it more than usual. I also noticed that in general the cellphones of choice were, predominantly, Blackberry (various versions but not many Pearls) and the iPhone. Huh. And all the phones over there seem so much bigger than ours here! The Blackberrys were gimongous - ok prob not that big but they seemed it. And I gotta say, I'm seriously looking at flicking the Pearl and maybe going for a 8707 or an 8310 or even an 8800. Or I could be a total spaz and just get mine in a diff colour like red or white (why oh why don't they do interchangeable faceplates??). Oh and yes, believe me, for a total of 2 mins and 13 seconds I did briefly contemplate switching to an iPhone *gasps* Shock! Horror! Heh

PICKUPS - yeah, trucks everywhere! And they're huge!

MUSTANGS - my dream car is a 1964 or 1966 Ford Mustang convertible in cherry red and, while I saw a heapload of mustangs in and around New Orleans (esp in the French Quarter) most of them were 2005 or newer. Wow. I still prefer the earlier version, though =)

COP CARS & FLASHING LIGHTS/SIRENS - doesn't necessarily mean pull over you're in trouble. In New Orleans it mostly means 'You're in my way MOVE NOW!' and so ppl move over quite happily and the police go on their merry way doing their rounds of the streets. It's all very peaceful. I did see a fair few ppl getting arrested over the Mardi Gras celebrations and, considering how tolerant they ordinarily are if you've crossed a line it must be either a pretty big one or you were removed for public safety. I saw one young man totally off his face sitting on the sidewalk. He was so pissed he couldn't move, couldn't speak and certainly couldn't remember where he was staying (or even what his name was or who he was staying with). Oh no, I lie - he could speak. He was fluent in cussing LOL As I came up near them he was swearing up a blue streak and one of the police officers asked him politely to moderate his language. The guy's swearing got even worse (hell, my paternal gran taught me to swear and she AND my gramps were in the army and this guy couldn't taught her a thing or two) and I was slightly impressed and horrified at one and the same time, but jumped outta my socks when the officer clapped his hands together (it was so loud it sounded like a gunshot) and yelled, 'I asked you to moderate your language, sir, there are ladies present.' Like a fool I stopped to look around and realised that as the only female out and about in the wee hours of the morning he meant me LOL They take Southern Hospitality extremely seriously there :-)

Oh ok, it's 3:11pm on Saturday the 7th of March and my plane got in at err roughly 7:00am and I'm dead beat and, after handing around souvenirs to siblings and repeating every day a million times to each sibling and then some (why do we never all meet in the one place at the one time eep) I'm done. More stuff will probably hit me later (like why the frick do people have to squish into planes, so much so that when the person in front leans their chair back they're almost sitting in your intestines?!? greedy airlines!) so until then I'm out.

And I'm walkin' in Memphis...

by tosca on Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's been about 3 or 4 days since I last blogged and there is a real good story as to how that came about. It's just long winded - as usual ;-)

On the 8 hour train ride out to Memphis I was fortunate enough to sit next to a very interesting young woman who was returning to Chicago (which, by the way, was an 18 hr train ride but MUCH cheaper than it would've been for her to fly). She came down for Mardi Gras and to see her family. Originally she's from New Orleans but, after Katrina, she and her son and mother packed up and moved to Chicago. She's been back twice to visit with family since then (her father and his second wife still live here in Algiers) and each time she said she breaks down she hates to leave this place so much. She was also kind enough to share photos with me of her relatives - her uncle was one of the chiefs of the local Black Indian groups. How cool is that?! I was gutted that I never got a chance to see any of their Mardi Gras celebrations as their costumes are all handmade and exceptionally beautiful. Her uncle died a couple of yrs ago and one of his sons is now the chief. The beads - and the work that goes into the costumes! She said that as soon as the current Mardi Gras is over they start working on the next year costumes. Her son, who is 14, will be taking part next year and he will begin to make his as soon as she returns to Chicago. They're going to be looking at moving home to New Orleans.

Somewheres between New Orleans and Pontchatoula is a sort of wetlands area - it's hard to describe. It looks like a wasteland but there's such an abundance of life there - a huge variety of birds and various other animals (like I said, New Orleans is so deceptive that way - what always looks like nothing is always much, much more). Anyways, at one point I was staring down into the water trying to guess what might be in there when the woman sitting next to me said, 'Ain't nothin' down there but 'gators.' At which my interest perked up and for the next mile or so I was avidly watching the water hoping to spot an alligator. My interest abated rather dramatically when she then said, 'After Katrina that's all you saw for three days...'gators and bodies.' She then went on to explain how she and other family members had all met together for safety in a relative's house. There were roughly 30 of them all waiting to be rescued. Can you imagine that? That's a pretty powerful image. Like I said in an earlier post, everybody has a story about Katrina, although this has been the first most personal recitation of anyone I ever met here yet. Everyone else tells you how it affected the city or local businesses etc., but nobody, until this woman, ever gave it to me like that.

An 8 hour train ride for which I slept through some of it I'm glad to say. It's about 2 hours until you hit the Louisiana/Mississippi state line and, when dark hit, so did the rain and the thunder and lightning. So it wasn't a total surprise to arrive in Memphis to find it wet, cold, dark and entirely miserable looking. After a 1 hour wait to claim my luggage I managed to grab a cab to the Days Inn at Graceland. I checked in and headed off to my room - to yank out my dying phone to snap a shot or two of the room. I kid you not, there is a guitar shaped swimming pool, 2 free Elvis-movie channels (that play his movies ALL day, every day), Elvis music playing on the loudspeakers outside and Elvis pictures on the wall. My phone is currently charging back at Banana Courtyard so I'll upload the pics sometime tonight into my Flickr account. So - sleep!

Memphis - Day 1: OMG do you know what woke me??? ELVIS MUSIC at freakin' 8:30 in the morning. UGH. So, did the usual get ready thing and then suddenly remembered where I was and raced outta bed to do Graceland! 'Cause, hello - it's Graceland!

Before Graceland I checked out a couple of souvenir shops. One right next door to the hotel where I was staying and one down the road from where I was staying. And these are before you even get to the Graceland Plaza. OMG crass commercialism abounds - and I was all too eager to partake of it LOL I have seen the famous Elvis face on everything from underwear and socks to keyrings and bobblehead dolls. It's - oh god, it's commercialism at its best and its worst, I swear. I also saw a Piggly Wiggly! I'd always heard this mentioned on tv sitcoms - so the minute I saw the sign I snapped a shot of it for my sisters to show 'em. I didn't go in, though! The weather was too cold. I couldn't handle it so I turned right back around and headed to Graceland.

Now, THIS place is deceptive! The Graceland mansion is on one side, and people were lining up in their cars (in spite of the 'NO PARKING' sign) and stopping to take photos of the house. The mansion is on one side of Elvis Presley Blvd but the actual place where you buy tickets (and get fleeced of your money) is on the other side. So, I crossed the road to buy a ticket to see the Graceland mansion - which was an interesting look at how the other half lives. In excess, it seems to me LOL Took some photos and later today I'll upload those, too. But the plaza - omg, there's an Elvis restaurant, an Elvis children's shop, about 3 or 4 Elvis souvenir shops - it's umm GROSS. That's how I thought of it - bloody gross. And yes, I did buy a very strange fridge magnet souvenir for Sonz because that's what he asked for. The weirdo =) So, you buy your ticket and you queue up to take a shuttle across the road for an audio tour - which is quite sophisticated when you think about. No shouting tour guides hustling you when you're not quite ready to move. You simply press 1 to start the audio tour, put the headphones on and wander round as you want. Which is what I did, from one room to the next, from one building to the next viewing the various display cases. Took the shuttle back across the road and then decided to visit the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum - man, did he even drive all those cars? Excess, sheesh. Took photos though, for my nephews LOL and those I'll upload later today, too. So, cold, wet and beginning to sneeze I headed back to the warmth and safety of my hotel room to take a nap..........and wake up with a fullblown cold. UGH. One thing I noticed, though, was that people don't really walk around this part of Memphis. Not at all. It snowed tonight! Freakin' cold but very beautiful. And treacherous to walk on. Took a couple of pics so will upload those later, too.

MEMPHIS: Day 2 - sick in bed LOL And thank god because the thought of walking around in slippery, cold snow does NOT appeal at all. Weather too cold - they issued a winter storm warning for Memphis. Not quite the welcome I was expecting. The temperature was something like 24 degrees, which is about 6 degrees back in NZ, I think. Either way it was COLD. I used to think that at least with cold weather you could dress up and put on clothes. In summer you can't take 'em off - I think I hate summer AND winter now LOL Ooh and note the guitar-shaped swimming pool (barely) in the background! I did buy postcards and meant to send 'em but a couple of things stopped me - SNOW grr and distance. So brought them back to New Orleans with me and posted 'em today. So don't be surprised if you get 'em when I get home. D'OH.

MEMPHIS: Day 3 - still feeling slightly off but determined to make 3 stops today come hell or high water. Glad to say I made them all! Snow mostly all melted :-)

Sun Studio - caught the free shuttle from Graceland Plaza to Sun Studio and omg HOW COOL IS THAT? Johnny Cash got his big break here! Oh yeah, I know, so did Elvis but I was never an Elvis fan. I was always a Johnny Cash girl. Took a tour of Sun Studio, which professes to be the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. I got to stand in the very same spot that BB King, Johnny Cash, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison stood ARGH. Oh yeah, and Elvis. I got to see a huge bunch of memorabilia from music legends the likes of which I only ever got to hear either on vinyl or cd. This I very much enjoyed! Then caught the free shuttle to the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum. Interestingly enough I was the only brown person on the shuttle out of the 6 of us on it, and I was also the only one who visited the Rock n Soul Museum - 3 girls got out to wander up Beale Street and the other 2 headed back to Graceland Plaza.

Memphis Rock n Soul Museum - is a musical journey. I got to hear the songs, videos, original instruments & countless other artifacts of the music that changed the world. And that's from the pamphlet LOL Another audio tour (I'm finding that Memphis specialises in these tours) that was such an eye opener about musical people and styles and backgrounds. It was great.

National Civil Rights Museum - how could I visit Memphis without coming here? The main exhibition on here at the moment is the Freedom's Sisters exhibit, which portrays 20 African American women whose work for liberty and equality continues to push aside limitations that constrict Americans. Hugely, hugely inspirational. Not much else I can say after that. Took in the rest of the museum as well - which is, of course, located at the site of the very famous Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It's a hugely moving place - from the very first exhibit to the very last - an emotional journey through a people's fight for equality. If you leave with a dry eye you're lying! The very last place you end up is standing between Room 306 (Dr. King's room) and Room 307 - it's all glass encased but you get to look in to the room and, also, out to Mulberry Street. You get to view the balcony where Dr. King was assassinated and, I must admit, I did shed a tear. More for the struggle for equality as a whole than for Dr. King specifically. It's hard not to. The story they tell is that there was a musician down in the courtyard of the motel and Dr. King leaned over and asked him to play his favourite hymn 'Precious Lord, take my hand.' Minutes later he was dead. As you stand there viewing the room and Mulberry Street you can hear Mahalia Jackson's voice singing the version she sang at his funeral. Pretty powerful stuff.

My impression of Memphis as a whole? I saw more homeless people in Memphis than I saw in New Orleans. How did I know they were homeless? Because they came up and said so and asked for a dollar - a stinking measly dollar. It was a trade off of sorts, they gave me info or showed me where to catch a cab or, once, gave me a rundown on the best places to visit and I gave them $5. Please, I'm not so cheap as to give a person $1. Maybe I was being hustled and maybe I wasn't - but it wouldn't sit well to turn my back on someone who wanted a dollar in return for information. Maybe the giving of the information was a face saver but $5 to leave someone with a little dignity didn't seem so steep a price to pay. They looked so pathetically grateful it was sad. Memphis broke my heart - or at least, this side of her did. And when I got back to my hotel I took a real good look around and then I noticed that there men much like the ones I met in downtown Memphis who looked like they were on their last nickel. They had that same look about them. And then I realised that they'd been there all along and I just hadn't seen or hadn't noticed them. I was now. And no I did not go out and give every man jack of them $5 - I'm not that stupid. Nobody wants a do-gooder interfering and playing Lady Muck - if they weren't going to come up I wasn't going to stick my nose in where it so plainly wasn't wanted. After that I was rather disappointed in Graceland - it seemed to sit up there like the king of crassness while people below went hungry.

On a slightly more upbeat note I had chicken and jojos for dinner ;)

Am back in New Orleans at the moment and yes, back at the Banana Courtyard and lovin' it. Slept 12 hours straight and am doing some last minute souvenir shopping for the siblings back home. Which reminds me, had better contact them all and let them know I am still breathing. And am MUCH warmer. Tomorrow I start flying home: New Orleans to St. Louis to LAX to Auckland. I arrive back in Auckland on Saturday 7th March at roughly 7am. YAY ME. Will be glad to get home to my own bed although I have VERY much enjoyed this trip and the huge number of interesting people I have met along the way. And hope to see again next year when I come back for the Jazz Fest =)

P.S. - I don't have pics of Dr. King's room or of the Civil Rights Museum because I was kinda conflicted over the whole is it right to take photos or not thing. It didn't FEEL right so I didn't. Wanted to though =) And then, just as I was walking away from the museum I saw a young woman conducting a lone protest at the end of Mulberry Street (to the far left as you exit the museum). Her sign read: 'This construction is a $10 million monument to injustice. It desecrates the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. BOYCOTT the National Civil Rights Museum now!' Then I felt even worse LOL But if you want an idea of how the Lorraine Motel looks then try here and, way at the bottom, you'll see the protest sign I'm talking about. There was also another sign that read she'd been protesting the museum for something like 21 years now. Eep!

Oh and also - there's a place here in New Orleans, or a parish, called Tangipahoa - which sounds kinda Maori to me. Or at least, the name LOOKS Maori but it ain't. It's pronounced TANG-UH-PAH-HOE. Weird.

Oh and I heard a guy the other day at the train station say to his dad, 'I gotta get the hell outta here 'cause I'm tryna DO somethin' with mah life.' Which I thought was so cliche of every American movie I'd ever seen. And yet kinda nice. End post.