Posts tagged “baton rouge

The Heffalump in the Room

Posted on November 4, 2011


When A.A. Milne first wrote about heffalumps —  which are elephants in little kid speak — they existed as a figment of Winnie-the-Pooh’s imagination. All the same, Pooh was determined to capture these pachyderms that stomped through his dreams. In the end, Pooh snagged himself and his nervous little buddy Piglet in a trap that he set to catch one of these critters.

I bring up heffalumps because some friends and former colleagues have told me I really should write about what it’s like to be an older person in graduate school. That is the heffalump in the room, so to speak. Honestly, I haven’t done it, because I could not see why anyone would find my impressions of graduate school interesting or the slightest bit entertaining. A lot of times it’s neither of those things. Footnotes? Please. Historiography? Please. Sitting still for three or more hours straight? Please. I also haven’t done it because I felt like my first year of graduate school mainly consisted of battling Heffalumps, Wizzles and Woozles — imaginary monsters that trapped me in my own net.

Now that I know those monsters aren’t there, I laugh a lot more.

I’ve also thought of the people who told me to write about graduate school. Many of them are my age and have wondered whether they could go back and do this to themselves as they juggle a career and kids and whatever else. They’ve wondered whether the time and the toil are worth it.

I’d say yes and no. I’d say yes because the experience has knocked some cobwebs out of my brain and helped me refine my so-called critical thinking skills. I’ll  never read a book the same way again, because I’ve spent the past year looking at arguments and finding out what’s wrong with them. These skills are useful for a reporter, writer, or really anyone from any walk of life. So that’s good.

Still, a lot of times I ask myself why I did this. A lot of times I count the days until I can go back and do what I love — write full-time for a living. I miss reading well-written books. I don’t know what that’s like anymore.

I miss a lot of things but I know I’m going to come out of this grateful and good. Because I’m determined.

And I’ve had a lot of great people in my corner who have been pulling for me.

I’m a very lucky lady.

In the meantime…

Maybe I’ll start telling Student Union cashiers that I actually DO get the employee discount. Or maybe I’ll stop telling professors that no I’m not teaching the next class, I’m learning in it.

“Hell yes, I’m teaching this class,” I’ll say. “Who wouldn’t want to learn about ‘Duran Duran: A Soundtrack of 20th Century Decadence’?”

But I’ll refrain from beating the next 18-year-old with my walker when he asks “Excuse me, ma’am, can you tell me where Lockett Hall is?”


There’s a certain fun in pointing to a vague “over there” and just letting them meander through a sea of pajama-clad, hormonally-deranged humanity. I guess we come back to school to wade through that sea so we can emerge on the other side, waterlogged but stronger in who we are.

Excuse Me?

Posted on October 5, 2011

Day after tomorrow, I will share air with Simon Le Bon for the seventh time in 20-some-odd years. Right now I’m supposed to be studying for a history midterm exam, but I can only think about the set list and whether I should buy a concert t-shirt for me and for my six year old.

Here’s a little something I came across on

Duran Duran (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Oct. 10): The still-pretty Brit laddies are touring behind All You Need Is Now,their best album since 1993’s Duran Duran. Simon Le Bon & Co. wisely brought in producer Mark Ronson, a retro-minded beatmaker who helped make a Rio redux for the 21st century. This will be a sexy show with sexy middle-aged fans. John Taylor can’t woo ’em all, boys, so let’s look sharp out there

First, I have no doubt that the show will be sexy. And I sort of like being part of this so-called sexy fanbase (even though it’s kind of laughable because I wear trifocals and throw out my back reaching for shampoo). But middle-aged? Now that’s where I draw the line…

The Backstage Pass

Posted on September 14, 2011

I’ve had this recurring dream since my early teens. Here’s what happens: I’m at a Duran Duran concert, squealing “Simon, I love you” (because I do love him) when all of a sudden this faceless person gives me a slip of paper, or a ticket, or some object (a magic amulet?) that indicates I can go backstage after the show to meet the band. Throughout the years, this aspect of the dream never has ceased to be thrilling, because in my heart and soul I am still the bespectacled, brace-faced band geek who expresses her Duran Duran lust by wallpapering her bedroom with posters of the band.

The dream doesn’t end there.

The show ends, my excitement builds and I run for my life to some stark white hallway where a big burly bouncer/roadie/nemesis-type awaits. Excited, goosepimply Durannies stream past this beast toward what I consider to be the Holy Grail, but I am either turned away, or sent off into some funhouse maze that leads nowhere, or asked to get the bouncer a soft drink (and when I return with the drink, the band is long gone, of course). Each time I wake up after having this dream, I think to myself, “Man, I was so close. I thought I heard Simon calling my name.”

How frustrating, right?

Well, one morning this weekend, while my daughter recounted a dream in which her head was on backwards, it dawned on me: things had changed. The burly nemesis who kept me from my backstage destiny for more than 25 years softened in his old age and let me meet the band (in my dream). It was a thrilling revelation, though I can’t for the life of me remember how it went and whether I passed out, or wept from sheer nerves or what. I can’t remember whether Simon liked me.  I can’t figure out what this dream means, or if it means anything at all. And I don’t know what happens now that I got where I wanted to go in a dream I’ve had forever.

Maybe this tale is just a gentle reminder that good things come to those who wait. I’ve never waited well, but I’m working on it and I’m hopeful.

In the meantime, October 7 can’t get here fast enough. I’ve got two tenth row seats to the Duran Duran concert in Baton Rouge and I’m ready to lose my voice singing “Rio.”


Posted on July 21, 2011


This time last week I was excited about a barely visible honeydew melon in my backyard garden. Now I’m a lot more excited, a. because this melon is much easier to see and b. because it fits neatly in the palm of my hand. Another honeydew is forming just inches from where this one sits.

I’m licking my chops.

When I moved here a year ago,

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Posted on March 24, 2010

In the middle of the night

Miss Clavel turned on the light

and said, “Something is not right!”

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans


As writers, we start with the feeling and everything follows from that.

— U2 guitarist The Edge in “It Might Get Loud”


I got trifocals recently. Yes, trifocals. My optometrist calls them progressive lenses, but admits that’s just a nice way of saying my eyes needed some major help. Getting adjusted to these new specs has been something of a chore. But when I can figure out where my eyes are supposed to go to see different increments of near and far, it’s amazing how crisp and clear the world is.

I knew something wasn’t right last spring when I found myself squinting in my old, Buddy Holly-style frames. My optometrist (who had a maddening habit of calling me “old girl”) at the time told me I would be fine for another year, but by December I was noticing that I was reading fine print over the top of my glasses and squinting to see, well, pretty much everything. A few weeks ago, I finally dialed up a new optometrist (new only because his predecessor was no longer covered by my vision plan) who decided that it would behoove me to have housefly eyes.

So far, the newfound clarity is dizzying. This, coupled with a fresh outlook, has brought on quite a bit of change as of late. In recent years, I’ve felt that I needed to shake things up a bit. I had a vague sense of how I might actually do that shaking up, but when the vision of how it would all go down snapped into focus, I found myself…talking myself out of it.

I suppose that’s easy to do when you’re an “old girl” like me.

The saving grace in all of this? I have a disturbing habit of going to France and coming home with a fresh outlook. Last fall’s trip was no exception. I immersed myself in a wonderful city with my family, was reminded of my lifelong love for the country’s history and, in the process, stumbled upon a story that I felt I had to tell. That sense, coupled with a tremendous afternoon in Shakespeare and Company bookstore, left me feeling overwhelmed and goosepimply. I sat in a cab, crying, as a couple of things became frighteningly clear.

I ran screaming from graduate school some 15 years ago because I felt I lacked the patience and maturity to study dead Frenchmen and their impact on the world. Though my maturity is still suspect, I knew during my cab epiphany that it was high time for me to be a student again, and a student of French history, no less. When I returned to Atlanta, I studied for the GRE, took the test the day before Halloween and began applying to schools shortly after that.

I was humbled by the process, from rounding up recommendations to writing a purpose statement that explained my background (eclectic) and interest (an inevitable byproduct of being from the great state of Louisiana). I submitted my applications and then waited.

The result? Like Drew Brees, my family and I have been called to Louisiana. We will be moving to my hometown of Baton Rouge where I will be a graduate student in history at Louisiana State University this fall. I will be working with a beloved mentor, someone I probably didn’t appreciate enough in my twenties even though he saw something in me back then, some beast he felt he could unleash. Fifteen years after the fact, I have decided to find out whether he was right. I am looking forward it.