Ugh, anything but write my Policy of Arts & Culture homework. So this is why I’m writing to you. Don’t get me wrong—I love reading about how arts policy meshes with urban planning. We’re discussing the difficult side of the creative economy’s coin: gentrification and unequal access to employment. But as I mentioned before, my thoughts are random; they bubble from the depths in unpredictable ways. Now, for my Policy homework, I have to make it look like they came to me in rational, marching order, with a claim, a warrant, backing evidence, a rebuttal. I can’t do that to my brain! I mean, I can try, but at my age, I probably won’t get anywhere. Mostly, I’m learning the extent to which I’ve overestimated my ability to act half my age.
Just like that, on the equinox, we stepped through the portal. We left summer behind in the other room and it’s cool and drizzly. I didn’t think Big D had it in her. What a relief. As Angie would say, the heat, light, and energy level can be oppressive. The amount of stamina required of me was too intense. Now when the sun shines, it’s my friend. The sky is make-your-heart-sing blue. Riding my bike frees my amazon. I’m hanging out by the pool—the one with the infinity edge for a better view of the HVAC. The day takes a little time to rev up and wind down. Tibby likes it much better this way too. She’s once more a sweet wild swamp thing.
So let’s take stock of summer: a cracked phone, a broken camera, locked out of the apartment on moving day, and a sprained thumb. All trivial. Alrik’s still glamping with me. Our carpeted pre-fab is healing on some levels. We’re pretty deep in the park-like setting. I could get used to not smelling garbage juice. Nor do we hear cars, trucks, honking, or helicopters. No one is over the age of 37, including me (haha, just kidding… sigh).
I had an option on a birthday this month, but I passed. There comes a time when birthdays come around too damn often, like it’s another weekend or something, and you have to put a stop to it. I’m staying the same age for two years this time.
It’s too bad, because my cohort, we’re good at celebrating birthdays. We’re not particularly gifted, so we’re betting on our cuteness to get us through the program. We’ve celebrated all our teachers’ birthdays already. We have to keep it coming, thank goodness we have Xmas just after finals. And then next semester, we can do up the New Year’s thing to get to know our next bunch of profs. I’ll say this for my fellow students: they have the talent of getting their projects done so they can get on with their lives, unlike me. I belabor things. Not much has changed since grade school.
I caught up on my reading for, like, 5 minutes. So I treated myself to a movie. We went to see Spike Lee's BlackkKlansman. Alrik tried to have a conversation about it with the Uber driver on the way home. That went nowhere. He got shut down immediately. We were the only people in the movie theater. Does no one talk about stuff other than football and restaurants?
Speaking of Alrik. I told the man to go out and bring home some money. The man comes back with a job. Umm, that's not what I asked for. It might sound like the same thing, but it's not. Tibby has to stay home alone. He's not available to swim with me in the morning. We don't read together anymore. All I wanted was the pile of money. Not the extra responsibility--I've got that for both of us.
This program is getting real. We were invited by Dallas's Office of Cultural Affairs to attend the unveiling of the new cultural policy plan. Dallas's cultural pride & joy--the state-of-the arts performance venues in the Arts District--are also Dallas's ball & chain. The maintenance of these white elephants starves the artists, presenters, and small organizations in the neighborhoods. The current funding allocation privileges the old-guard, traditional arts consumer but does not encourage the creation of art in the communities, nor draw in new audiences.
Our class went to the activation meeting to witness and listen and learn. We weren't permitted to sit on the sidelines very long. Pretty soon, we were throwing down ideas and schemes. We're all artists to begin with, so our minds clicked away, the way they do. Besides, we had an untested three weeks of theory to exercise. The things my class came up with were fun, brilliant, and would make any city way more interesting and livable.
So, hire an artist to solve any and all of your problems! Big or small, we do it all.
I’m pushing hard on my bike pedals to get up this flat slope. There’s a head wind no matter my direction. My lung capacity is diving. Each coughing spasm leaves my legs weak. This twelve-day illness is perhaps asthma, perhaps pertussis. The air-con ducts spew mold that inflames my lungs. I’m on antibiotics and an inhaler. My sleep is broken up by coughing fits. I’m behind on my writing and reflection. I can’t participate in class for fear of ejecting pieces of lung. My brain won’t rise to the occasion. As they say, the wheel is true but the hamster’s dead.
And I’m still incredulous and furious that we’re spending summer and autumn in 98 degree, Where-is-everyone Texas. We’re missing the best that Montreal has to offer in municipal arts and inclusive culture. Montreal, where it’s 72 degrees and everyone is celebrating summer on the streets. We’ll get there in December, when these effervescent, joyous events are a long-ago memory and the town is bundled in yards of smelly wet wool scarves. When Dallas starts to come to life. Now that’s some backwards.
I found a silver lining to the Texas nonsense. After ten years of missed occasions, I finally get to see Corb Lund play live near Dallas in late August. I bought the tickets online in early June when I was still in New York. I miss the concert anyway. The antibiotics flatten me and I can’t leave my bed.
Alrik’s long-time friend comes to town to meet me and take us out to dinner. I can’t leave the bed that day either. I can’t wheeze through ballet class. I can’t hack in the dark at the movies. I can’t cough on the paintings in over-air-conditioned museums. I can’t choke on my dinner in restaurants. Dallas is off to a slow start.
If nothing else, I’m here for the coursework, which is everything I wished for and more. If I ever get there on this 150 pound bicycle with square wheels and flat tires.