Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Reflections on Visiting Tulaneville

I am back from six days in New Orleans, staying in the house of Colin and George. The experience was enjoyable and interesting, underlayed with a sense of anger, depression and foreboding. The good news is that I finally have a sense that I know where Colin stands academically for the first time in the last four years. He even showed me his DAR. The bottom line is that a Tulane degree will take another full year and US$40,000, to say nothing of reasonable personal discipline and responsibility. As usual, Colin will do it when Colin is good and ready to do it. I am glad that he has the personal resources in all respects to get it done.

Colin's circle is very different from that which I experienced in college 40 years ago. They seem to get up between 12:00 and 2:00PM, going to class in the afternoon, then playing games until 2:00 to 4:00AM. The "games" include lots of electronic pastimes. Then there are "daiquiri" Mondays and Wednesday's. Thursday night is the big blow-off. Books and study seem to be worked in around the social schedule.

I will admit that my friends in college thought of me as a nerd, but my basic plan was to study every day, and to spend as much time as possible in a quiet place for study (Westminster House) or in the library. I did have a crisis in my senior year when faced with a "huge" senior honors paper, after I discovered the leisure reading room in the library with the big comfortable chairs. I read novel after novel during the day, usually focused on Russia (things like "Quiet Flows the Don") . I told myself that they related to my honors paper on "Soviet Management." Even so, I was able to make it through. Of course I was also married at the time, so my home life was quiet. We had no TV's, computers, cell phones, or portable music devices, but we did have a high end stero system which I had built on which we listened to classical and folk music.

I enjoyed spending time with all of the people who came in and out from Colin's social group. I am glad that he has friends, and that the memory of these friendships will always be a part of his life.

I am slightly sad now to be back at home facing six weeks of paper grading pressure intermixed with medical procedures leading up to my next operation. I loved the mornings in New Orleans when I would get up between 6:00 and 7:00AM and steal quietly off to the Starbucks on Maple Street, where I would sit for three hours reading Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel." Reading this book was a fine feature of my vacation, and a stimulating, even useful, thing to do. It is lovely to walk through the late March streets of New Orleans near Tulane, with the night chill burning off, the trees green and budding, and the birds twittering. It is tempting to think of living in New Orleans.

I only went to the Quarter once, on Thursday morning, to have breakfast at the Clover Grill at Bourbon and Dumaine. I love the Clover Grill, which is just a 24 hour informal grill, but the grits are wonderful there, and the basic American breakfast is my favorite meal. The personnel at the Clover Grill are queer. Chelsea and I always go there, and the two of us together usually get a response, which I must admit that I like.

After the Clover Grill I went to the House of Marie Laveau to get a remembrance for Chelsea (a Marie Laveau poster and some candles). One of Chelsea's best original songs is about Marie Laveau. Then I popped into the Famous Door bar as I walked back to the St. Charles Street car. I was the first customer of the day. I bought some Camels and sipped a couple of Jack Daniels on the rocks as I listened to Bonnie Rait covers before heading home. I don't miss the Quarter much when I am around Tulane. It is nice to see the side of New Orleans which is not part of the tourist business. Of course Tulane is a part of the "export base" of New Orleans just as much as the tourist business.

What they need in New Orleans is a good harbor tour like they have in Rotterdam. Without the port you really do not see the basis of New Orelans as a City. They should stress the river and foreign commerce angle of their economy in addition of the music and food, and booze. New Orleans is still one of the top five ports in the US, a giant in steel, grain, and oil. I love to be in the middle of port operations, it makes me feel a part of the pulse of the global economy and of history.

Colin and I made two shopping forays to Whole Foods, on one of which I bought some bottles of Sambazon acai smoothies to try them out. They sold for $3.49 each, competing with Odwalla for $2.49. I am writing a case about Sambazon and sustainable development. I love Whole Foods. We bought cheeses, wines, veggies, lamb sausage, breads, and lots of other stuff. My total Whole Foods bill for the two trips came to around $300, but Colin seemed to be low on rations when I got there. It is fun to go shopping with Colin.

Most evening we just stayed home, Colin would cook something up, we would watch TV and talk, and watch TV. A fun thing was to work together doing Colin's taxes. We always get along best when we are focused on doing something. I was glad to do taxes with him because next year he will be more ready to do them himself. Another evening we graded some take-home exams. Colin steeled my resolve to be a hard grader, which is good.

The several visits I have made to Colin's have made me aware of how today's college student is almost attached physically to a cell phone and a laptop (and a cigarette??). Laptops are used to provide information, communicate with professors, and play music.

My depression in New Orleans came from concern over Colin's immediate past and immediate future. The least important part of his college experience seems to be the academic side. He has the social down, but the fact of having a sophisticated university community right there, with all the opportunities for hearing speakers, visiting galleries and performances, taking great courses, and learning, does not seem of interest to Colin and his friends.

I hope Colin gets into some practical activity soon. Academia is not for him, and never has been. He seems to me to need immersion in something which is totally engaging of his mind, body, and senses. Will goat farming do it? Will photography do it?

As I left New Orleans I was aware of how quickly life flies past. These periods with Colin last year in Brazil and this year in New Orleans during my Spring break have been so enjoyable to me, and I treasure the memory of them.

Good news awaited me when I got home. My house was still standing, although shaken by the construction next door. Musa had moved out, hooray, hooray, and Sadaisha is also moving out in May (I Hope, I Hope). This wil mean that only two people are left for me to support.

My thoughts revolved around retirement and Paddy Mountain while I was in New Orleans. I made financial calculations to try to project what my possibilities would be. I still want to move to Paddy Mountain. I am considering full retirement or half time retirement from Hofstra. The half time would mean that I would need a place to stay in New York for about four months per year, but it would give me coverage for medical insurance. It works out that half time retirement would only mean a difference of $1700 per month, some of which would be accounted for by extra living expenses in New York or Long Island. I had originally planned to rent most of my house during retirement, but I now think that renting would be difficult because of the state of the plumbing and electrical systems in the house. Renovation is a doubtful propositions since the value of the house is essentially for the land. The house would be razed and a larger building of condominiums would be built here upon sale to the highest bidder.

I listed all the many things I could do at Paddy Mountain to make money during retirement (adjunct teaching, free lance market research, on-line book/antiques marketing, rabbits for meat or pets, summer produce gardening and canning, antique restoration, bed and breakfast, deep woods honky-tonk shows, dog breeding/boarding, textbook writing, academic advisement at Bucknell/Penn State, etc). I would have a base of $2,000 per month from SS, plus $1500 from my pension, and living costs would be much cheaper. I am thinking that the time to break with New York may be at hand. I have made many life changing decisions in my life, so I do not shrink too much from the big retirement strategy decision. Of one thing I am clear: full time teaching at Hofstra is probably a negative for my spirit at this stage in my life. The money is nice, but getting the money by teaching relatively dull uninterested people is not good for me. 29 years is enough. Especially when my health situation is possibly indicating that I need to break now if I am ever to have just a year or two in the country.

I hate losing my physical and mental capabilities.

The right path will reveal itself when the time comes.


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