Friday, April 30, 2010


My grandma first told me the story of Roy when I was a teenager on the verge of coming out as a lesbian. I've spent the 10 years since wondering and occasionally prying. Now that we're in the thick of working on the documentary, I re-interviewed her and asked why she had told me the story in the first place.

Turns out, she too is curious.

"I'm 70-years-old, Casey," she told me. "Am I going to die without ever knowing the truth?"

I'm hoping I can find some answers and honor Roy in a way that makes my grandma proud.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poverty Point State Park

About seven years ago, the people of Delhi built a man-made lake at Poverty Point State Park. These days, it seems to be the pride and joy of the town. Two years ago, they built cabins right on the lake. People with money have built their own houses, behind a locked gate, on the lake, too.

Yesterday, we interviewed a 96-year-old woman who told us all about the history of Delhi, how it changed during the oil boom of the 1940s, how it changed again when all those plants left in the 1980s. Right now, ConAgra is relocating from the Pacific Northwest to Delhi. And the rich people are relocating from Delhi's center to the lake. The town, she said, is likely to be a completely different one in a few years.

The lake was supposed to reenergize the town's economy, but mostly, she said, people just head straight to the lake. They don't spend a lot of money in the town.

At any rate, we contributed to the lake economy this week, and it was awesome. (We have contributed plenty to the local grocery store economy, though, I promise. We also have stopped in at the coffee shop and the drugstore lunch shop.)

For $95 a night, you can rent one of these cabins on the lake. There are two sets of bunk beds and one queen, so if you brought enough friends over, it could really be a cheap stay. There's free Internet and cable TV, too. Aubree made us a delicious Southern dinner of corn on the cob, blackeyed peas, collard greens and mashed potatoes. We had a blast staying in the cabin, and on our next trip South, we're going to book it for the whole stay.

They stay pretty booked up (and one burned down last month!), so we could only get in for one night this time.






Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Abandoned whatevers

In 1971, a big tornado went through Delhi, destroying houses and cars and municipal buildings. That tornado is our best guess as to why so much of Delhi still consists of abandoned buildings or pieces of metal. We talked with a state senator today who told us that Delhi is a town on the move, that new things are coming. He did admit, too, though, that the city used to have many more cafes and hotels.

On the crew, we've been calling all the abandoned things we find "abandoned whatevers" because some of them are truly indistinguishable.




Saturday, April 24, 2010

Documentary days (1)

We finally made it to Delhi today. I've been feeling really discouraged because a lot of our interviews have been falling through, but we drove around Delhi for a while today and took some footage, and it was really fun to just really look at the town. There are so many nice, newly washed cars, as well as so many older, broken-down looking houses (And as Aubree pointed out, these often were found together).

People were definitely suspicious and/or curious of a group of out-of-towners standing around with video cameras outside. Two guys - Rob and "Talkhead" - stopped and asked us to take their picture, though.

Tomorrow we're headed to Roy's old church and then to my grandma's for lunch and an interview.






Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The documentary begins

After a decade of my grandma’s stories (and my consequent annoying prying), I am heading down to Delhi, Louisiana, on Friday to begin working (in earnest) on a documentary about Roy, who was born a woman but who lived as a man there from 1930(ish) - 2006.

I’m taking with me two good friends — Aubree and Aaron. They’ll be the masters of sound and sight. I’ll be asking questions, talking, directing.

I’ll be posting updates (photo + video + words!) from our trip. To get all that started, here are two photos from our Sunday pre-interview shoot. We wanted to make sure all of our equipment works all together and also capture (on film) everything we know at this point. Stay tuned!



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Strangers in heaven

The hardest I ever cried as a child was the night my mother told me I wouldn't recognize her in Heaven. God and all his angels would be my family, she said. My mother, who brought my lunch and homework to me every day I forgot them (at least three times a week), would be just another stranger.

That's how I came to fear Heaven, how I stopped hoping for its gold streets and fluffy clouds and eternal Hallelujahs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Best e-mail I've received in a long time

"Re: the Census. 1930 is the latest Census available to the public; there is a 72-year embargo/no-looky-for-you on those materials. So we will have to wait until 2012 to get our chubby mitts on the 1940 Census (and believe me, girl, librarians across the land are counting down)."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Which makes me an aunt

My brother had a baby:


*Someone else took this photo. Dustin's in Texas, and I'm in Oregon, so I haven't met my nephew Emerson yet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My aunt leaves a comment

A conversation between my mother and her sister:


Friday, April 2, 2010

It's National Poetry Month

For four years, my friend Jessica has sent out a poem a day every April. This year, she's only sending out female poets (She admitted, in a kind of e-mail breathless confession, that she doesn't actually like female authors. Usually the poems she sends out were written by men).

I always look forward to April. Out of college, it's so hard (why?) to find new poems. I buy tons of new fiction and non-fiction, but I never keep up with poetry (even though I love it).

Today is day two, and it's already getting good:

Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.