The short stick

When people ask why I moved here, I usually just say ‘I came here for a master’s and I wanted a change.’ That’s the quick and polite way of not having to dive into an extensive history lesson about how messed up Louisiana is. Yes, it’s beautiful and strange. Yes, the people are wonderful. Yes, the food is great.

I sometimes think if people knew more about Louisiana, they’d ask me instead, ‘What took you so long to leave?’ It’s hard to walk away from your home, your people, your comfort. It’s hard for some of your people to understand they’ve done nothing wrong.

When Baton Rouge or New Orleans makes the news here, it’s a bad sign. Either someone is doing something terribly wrong, or something terribly wrong is happening. The first year, Gustav. Last year, Deepwater Horizon and Katrina’s anniversary. This year, the great flood (does it have a short format news name, yet? I haven’t read one.). A few weeks ago at a goodbye dinner for a colleague, the conversation came around to trash talking various states. My boss commented that he didn’t hear anyone dissing Louisiana. I replied something along the lines of  ‘Nobody likes kicking the underdog.’ Louisiana always gets the short stick, that’s for sure.

But there’s the short stick we’re dealt and the short stick Louisiana has whittled itself over the years. It’s not you, the people I know and love who have done anything wrong, it’s everyone else. Let me share some choice events that happened since I’ve been living in Sweden. You can agree or disagree that these are pathetic events. They’re just my take on things, in no particular order.

  • Gov. Bobby (born Piyush) Jindal said he’d sign a birther bill if it came across his desk. He then released his birth certificate, just in case he ends up running for president.
  • Jindal also signed into the law the ‘gun-in-church’ bill, authorizing persons (who qualified to carry concealed weapons and had passed the training and background checks) to bring them to churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship as part of a security force.
  • Then there’s the new law that increases ”conscience protection” for healthcare workers beyond abortion, where employees can refuse to perform various services, based on moral or religious reasons, with assurances of job protection and legal immunity. Such services include distributing emergency contraception, working on human embryonic stem-cell research or cloning, and participating in euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
  • The State Superintendent of Education resigned this year. The East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent said he doesn’t want a new contract when it expires in June 2012. Meanwhile, every employee of the EBRP school system received a letter that they might be laid off, since the school system needs to cut $39 million somehow, somewhere.
  • This was in 2009, but a big annual art event removed a black-and-white photograph of a nude woman, without consulting the artist or thinking about the implications.
  • An Oklahoma woman was shot and killed during a KKK initiation in Louisiana, after asking to be driven back to town because she was homesick.
  • New Orleans continues to have the highest murder rate in the nation: 52 per 100,000 people (174 murders in 2009. 2010 numbers aren’t out yet, but should be 212 or so.). Baton Rouge is sixth in the nation with 34 murders per 100,000 people. After a 10-month investigation, the Department of Justice released a report on the New Orleans Police Department “that describes in chilling detail a department that is severely dysfunctional on every level: one that regularly uses excessive force on civilians, frequently fails to investigate serious crimes and has a deeply inadequate, in many cases nonexistent, system of accountability,” according to the NYT.
  • Oh and yesterday, in the year TWO THOUSAND ELEVEN, this gem surfaced. ‘Legislation designed to define what constitutes bullying among school students died in the Louisiana House on Thursday amid complaints that it would promote gay lifestyles.’

I could go on, but I think you get it. What’s even weirder than all the above, is that despite all the above I’m still fighting the urge to want to be there. My move here was supposed to be temporary, two years and then back to the States. I was never sure where I intended to move back to, but it was probably going to be New Orleans. So more than two years later, some days are filled with longing and confusion. Why am I so damn far away? And for how much longer?

Much more so, how far diverted from reality will I be when it’s time to choose? Because when you’re homesick, you start to live in figments and fabrications. You walk around every day, torn between the life you’re in and the life at home you know doesn’t exist.  Since everyone moves on with life, even while you’re off living yours, memories become increasingly obsolete. It’s the state of still being in love with an ex, replaying only the memories of what attracted you to them in the first place, not what made you leave or how they’ve since changed. I know Sweden isn’t perfect either. But which one do you choose? Who really has the short stick? And does it matter if the stick is short as long as it makes you happy? (That’s what she said.)

I don’t knoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

I’m thinking about this, particularly now, because I went on a work trip to London this week. We went to the Design Museum and to IDEO, a bad ass design consultancy. Going anywhere else puts your life and choices into question. What does Malmo have on London? What does Malmo have on New Orleans? Coupled with that, it spit me into thinking about what it was like when I moved back from Brighton to Baton Rouge in summer 2005 after six months of living abroad. Granted, ALL shit hit the fan then, so maybe it’s not a fair thought….but even after just six months, it took me at least six months to find my feet again–to stop constantly running my mind through the streets of Brighton. What happens after more than two years away? What happens if those two years turn into seven years?

I don’t knoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

I’m not any closer to having answers, even after writing all of this, I just wanted to share what’s going through my head. If anyone’s got any tips or suggestions, you know where to find me. Until then, maybe let’s try to lift ourselves from this funk with a photo slideshow! It’s got a few photos from my normal view on the way to work, Stockholm and London.

By the way, since the majority of this post has been about Louisiana, you’ll be pleased (I hope) to know that I’ll be there July 22 – Aug. 6, give or take. Karl’s along for the ride, too, so you can all acquaint yourselves better with him in a non Mardi Gras environment! And anyone who’s reading from NYC, we have a long layover on Aug. 7. So let’s get a beer or something. Sorry for being a tad negative and depressing with this entry. I’ll try to be more upbeat next time!

Click me and the deep thought turkey hat for photos. It’ll open a Flickr slide show. I’ve finally made the switch! If you can’t see the captions, click ‘show info’ at the top right. Click ‘options’ to change the speed. Or use the ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons at the top to click through the slide show. Enjoy!

Click me and the turkey for photos.

Click me and the turkey for photos.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “The short stick

  1. Hakim

    More posts like this, please.

  2. brandisimmons

    Aww, I miss in-person chats with you about the state of things. Frankly, I miss my rapidly decreasing group of intelligent, forward-thinking women in my daily life. This growing up thing is for the birds.

  3. Agreed.

    I am forever romantically attached to places and people I no longer need. Makes me feel a little less alone. 😉

  4. Jess

    Last night at the bar, a guy orders a beer and wants to close out with a credit card. I tell him it’s a ten dollar minimum. He looks at me, and says, “What kind of a place is this? Yall some Chinese mother fuckers?” And continues to bitch in his worst Chinese accent, I was horrified. It scares me that lots of people around here think its ook to just be outright rude and racist. I was just standing there thinking “Is this really happening?” Dubstep night brings in people from Denham and Hammond… and.. all those places… I prefer thinking they dont exist.

    I miss you and love you. I want your chicken hat. Are all those boxes full of beer and sitting in your apt???

  5. Sarah

    Truer words were never written. Sorry you are so conflicted. Nick and I have been going back and forth on the whole NOLA vs. BR debate for the past year, especially since our house didn’t sell right away. We were trying to figure out where we truly belonged, so I know how you feel (on a much smaller scale, of course). Now that we are officially two weeks from our big move to New Orleans I feel confident we are moving in the right direction. We miss you and can’t wait to see you both. You can come visit us at our new digs. We’re right off of Esplanade near the park.

  6. Madeleine

    Kära Marissa. Svaret kommer komma till dig när du minst anar det. När du är redo att ta steget så vet du. Hur många år man bor någonstans har mindre betydelse. Platser och ögonblick i det förflutna följer med oss genom hela livet. Ibland känner jag vemod ibland glädje när jag minns gator och möten från mina år i Paris. Men livet ger oss hela tiden nya ögonblick som kommer följa med oss på den resa som livet är. En fördel med Malmö är att det är litet och genom det så är luften renare än i Paris eller London. Rytmen är långsam. Hur det är i Louisiana vet jag ej. Platser och möten är olika saker. Jag har ett minne av en promenad genom Malmös gator om natten och ett möte med en röd tupp 🙂

  7. I will take you up on that NYC drink. Full on commiserating expected and appreciated!

  8. Ugh, I so understand everything you just wrote! I always knew I’d end up going home, I just wasn’t sure how it would happen. And now it has and I’m starting to think both places are short sticks in some way or another. But no matter how short the American one is, with all its flaws and bad reputation, I just know that’s the one for me.

  9. Carolyn

    You just listed all the things that I hate about my new home. Fortunately there are things that make me happy while I’m here, most especially the interesting and wonderful people I’ve met, friends I’ve made……. people like you. I know it’s hard not being sure what direction to go, but wherever you go, you will be very fine just being YOU along the way 🙂
    love & hugs

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