Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last Day for We Still Live Here

Day 15 - Alexandria LA

Louisiana looked lovely and green from the plane, although there was no sign of a St. Patrick's Day celebration when I landed.  Different state, different country.  I was glad to be staying with a local couple, Dr. David Holcombe and his wife Nicole, and that they would transport me from the airport to their house and to the screening.  No more getting lost and trying to read my iPhone GPS while driving! 

Alexandria is an interesting town on the Red River that has seen better days.  Most of it was burned down during the Civil War, and when England Airforce Base closed in 1992, the town suffered again.  But there is a valiant core group working to revitalize the downtown, bringing artists, musicians and filmmakers to spice things up.  The Holcombes had worked hard to get the word out; getting a feature article in the local paper's arts section, and contacting several Native American tribes nearby.  As we arrived, I was pleased to see the small Black Box theater filling up; people seemed really excited about the film.

During the screening, I walked by the Red River and then explored the deserted streets of downtown Alexandria.  There were a lot of empty storefronts, some clothing stores, an Irish pub that wasn't especially lively, and then I happened upon the Tamp and Grind (what a name!), a funky little coffee house with a colorful bottle tree hanging outside.  The cafe was packed with friendly high school kids listening raptly to a talented young guitar player named Benjamin Richey.  He had lightning fingers and sang a raspy rendition of House of the Rising Sun just before I had to head back for the theater for the Q+A.

The discussion turned out to be one of the most emotional and engaging of the whole Southern Circuit tour.  One woman was almost in tears as she described growing up with the Aquinnah Wampanoag on Martha's Vineyard and her friends in the Vanderhoop family.  Several African Americans in the audience praised the film lavishly, reacting to the Wampanoag's story with deep compassion and admiration.  A young woman named Akeshia Singleton from the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, wondered how her people could revive their language.  She said that her tribe has no speakers, but they do have a comprehensive dictionary that could help them get started.  I said, you need a Jessie, someone who has the passion and energy and smarts and stamina to make it happen, and maybe that person is you!  She certainly struck me as a person of passion and intelligence, and I hope she will decide to set out on this path.

This morning, I said good-bye to my hosts as they headed off to a day of Czech folk dancing in a nearby town - once again, you just can't make these things up!  The tour has been great, but now I am really looking forward to getting home tonight and seeing at last my beloved Charles and my crazy, much-loved Cassius.