Bastion

 

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I live at an “intentional community” for veterans called Bastion in New Orleans. It’s the brainchild of West Point grad and Army war veteran Dylan Tete, my friend. I was running a Warrior Writers group here before I moved here. When I was still living in the French Quarter and when my kitchen ceiling fell in (I lived in former slave quarters, built in 1845) and after two months, when it became clear the (rich) owner (who lives in another state) wasn’t going to fix it, I had to move.

Bastion is three years old, beautiful garden apartments—one of the nicest places I’ve ever lived– in a part of New Orleans that was mercilessly submerged during Katrina and now re-emergent. This part of town, Gentilly, was settled mostly by Black WWII vets. I feel at home here. I feel at home around people like this.
So I moved in. I moved in in April.

Bastion’s mission is simple, mix civilians and newly re-assimilating veterans into community and let community be the singular healing tool. About twenty percent of the residence are non-veterans who simply care about the mission.
Several of the non-vets are elders. Our current culture has a way of hiding away the elderly. My belief is that this is because they are reminders of our own mortality and most people don’t want to be reminded that they too will grow old, they too will die. For the greater part of the nigh-on 200,000 years of this version of our species the Elders and the Two Spirits (like me) helped to raise the young-uns. At Bastion, the place where I’m the playwright Artist in Residency, that is the way it still works.

I got back yesterday to New Orleans from five weeks of Warrior Writers work and political activism. It was an amazing and wonderful time and it will soon be time to get back out there but for now, for a minute, I need to sit and breath. I have a couple of health concerns that need looking after. I can’t change the world if I’m dead. Or maybe I can. I hope that I do. Don’t you? Don’t you hope you’ll still be changing the world after your dead? You will be, you know, for the good or the bad. I pray that I’m forgotten in a generation but that the benefit of my work outlasts me by generations. But I digress.
When I returned to Bastion yesterday, the kids greeted me like I was bringing home the everything we’d always wanted.  As soon as they fall into my embrace I smell their sweet, young skin, their dried tears and the stories of their days. I love being the G’uncle to so many. Long after I’m dead, these young children, after they’ve grown to the age I am now,  on the monthly call to a sibling, will say, “Hey you remember that old white dude, Jeff? Remember how he fixed our bikes? Remember how much he loved us?” And they’ll be right because I do so very much love them. That’s all I need.

This is my home, New Orleans, Louisiana. I never saw that one coming. But, as for my ascended Master, Tennessee Williams, The Big Easy has become my spiritual home even though I was “comin’ from somewhere else.”

To be honest, when I moved here, it took a minute for the men to let me in (story of my life). I ain’t mad. Black men don’t owe me shit. But with the black women it was different. Eternal, ethereal, unexplainable, and indisputable the cosmic connection between gay white men and black women was waiting for me when I arrived and they all, collectively, took a pause between juggling careers and education and babies and said, “Oh. It’s you. ‘bout time you got here. Here, hold this baby. I’ve had to pee for an hour.” And that’s the way it’s been. And I feel at home.


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