Lame headline, I know. Maybe I shouldn’t admit to being a Counting Crows fan (at least their early stuff). Or that I once framed a picture of Adam Duritz and me, standing together outside of the Woodlands Pavilion with two of my best friends.
Maybe it diminishes what little credibility I have. (I have also been known to be a Dave Matthews fan, and as I have mentioned here before, incidentally, a few years ago, I also met a drunken yet garrulous Dave, sitting in the Mirror Room of the Hotel Bentley).
But Duritz was a nice enough guy, despite his admonishment of my friend Lizz, who, after asking if she could “touch his hair,” was told that she wasn’t at a “f’ing petting zoo.” (A couple of weeks ago, my brother’s fiance confused Counting Crows with Hootie and the Blowfish, which was both hilarious and completely understandable).
Either way, August and Everything After has a nice ring to it, and it aptly describes where I am right now. Having just wrapped up the month of August here in Dallas, now, there’s just everything after.
I know it may sound disingenuous, but I don’t miss the petty drama of Alexandria politics. Not in the least.
I miss Louisiana, of course, but then again, I began to miss Louisiana the moment I crossed the Sabine River on the two-lane highway near Burr Cemetery Road in Burr Ferry.
Texas is sweltering. Dallas, with its surfeit of concrete and asphalt, slow cooks to a boil during the day, and by night, the City is still sweating, like a drunk man in a sauna.
Last week, I wrote about my disappointment with Alexandria Councilman Jonathan Goins. Then, I wrote him personally. Like Dallas, it took awhile, but I’ve cooled off a bit. I still think he made a colossal mistake. I will always believe, as I told him, that a leader shouldn’t base his decisions off of the sentiments of Jerry Springer juries who show up to spout off on television. Mr. Goins wrote me back, for which I am appreciative, though I still wish he’d move permanently and unequivocally into his own Council district; it’s a nice place.
And, even though I have been away from Alexandria for only a short time, I also recognize this: I am now, more than ever before, free to speak out against the poor and stupid decisions made by elected officials in Alexandria, but these are battles I can no longer wage as a resident. You’re just going to have to trust me as someone who lived through many of these fights throughout the last half of the decade, and, thankfully, not as someone whose livelihood depends on an up-or-down vote.
Earlier in the year, Councilman Edward Larvadain III tried to eliminate my job. He singled me out during the budget hearings. In the interest of self-preservation, I would never say then what I can say now: Councilman Larvadain is, in my personal opinion, the worst and most divisive elected official currently holding office in the State of Louisiana. And before anyone accuses me, as they have done in the past, of unfairly targeting Mr. Larvadain because of his race (a ridiculous accusation, if there ever was one), then I suggest you become more informed on the issues.
For whatever reason, in Alexandria, it’s more convenient or expedient for some of our elected African-American officials to carry the banner of a former member of the Ku Klux Klan than it is to listen to the balanced and measured concerns of their colleagues, both white and black. I don’t get it. I doubt I ever will.
One day, someone is calling you the n-word; the next day, you’re posing with him in photographs at a campaign function or quoting from him as Gospel during a Council meeting. I’d submit that this type of political posturing represents blatant hypocrisy, an almost masochistic opportunism. I’d also submit that it is ultimately destructive, divisive, and self-defeating.
Larvadain, in particular, has constructed his governing style around racial identity. It may not always be evident on the television show, but in the back room of the Council chambers, it’s often apparent. (Actually, it’s often apparent on the television show as well).
An elected official, whether they’re on camera or deliberating behind the scenes, should never call someone else a “Jew” pejoratively, particularly if they’re referring to a Jewish man who was in his twenties during the Holocaust. It’s a stupid, anti-Semetic, painful, and hateful thing to say, and it’s definitely not something that anyone who truly champions diversity or inclusiveness would ever utter. I’m just saying, as a hypothetical.
And I suppose that is where I am with Alexandria: Happy to not be in the thick of things anymore, but also frustrated by what President Obama wisely calls our “racial stalemate,” a stalemate that actually cuts across racial, ethnic, and religious borders. Happy to be able to speak my mind, fully and without fear of reprisal from the Council, but also disappointed by the small army of critics who exploit race– out of context– as an automatic reflex to legitimate criticism. There’s a reticence to speak openly about these issues, because they’re intimidating and powerful and culturally imbued. But we must, all of us, together at a shared table.
If we can’t unite as a community, then we’ll never grow; we’ll never progress. We also must not be afraid to, as I have said before, call “a spade a spade.” It has to be a part of the process: Identifying, precisely, what ails us, what prevents us from coming together.
Surely, at some point, there’s an “everything after.” We don’t have to relinquish ourselves to forever living in the past. We don’t have to accept defiant anger or divisiveness as a mere political fact.
There is an alternative.