LIFE IN THE BIG EASY…...Post-Katrina New Orleans on Frenchman Street in Marigny...
For anyone who may be thinking of doing UAC in the future, the first thing to realize is how exhausting this week can be. There are so many tracks, with 15 different workshops running simultaneously in every time slot. Most days run four time slots back to back (with some breaks in between for lunch, and such) from 9:00 am to 5:45 pm.
And for the eager and energetic, there is a whole separate selection of yummy workshops offered during lunch – the “Brown Bag Lunch” workshops offered by young, up-and-coming astrologers which an attendee does not find out about until they arrive (they were not available in advance on the website). Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to attend a single one – too tired. I was wiped out by allergies before I got here, and I have been coughing a lot here.
Prior to UAC, I signed up for an 11 hour commitment on the hospitality desk. I’m glad I took the opportunity to volunteer because this desk is a central hub – a lot of information about the conference flows at you while you are on the desk, and a lot of speakers come over to say hello and chat a bit, and the whole experience made me feel far more “connected” than I would have ever felt if I hadn’t volunteered. Plus, I got the opportunity to work with some wonderful people, and when I needed to switch rooms and find a new roommate for the last night of the conference, I found her among my peers on the hospitality desk, of course.
A lot of the fatigue has to do with the fact that New Orleans is such an amazing city, and it’s a real juggling act to decide how much time to allocate to the conference, and how much time to spend goofing off in the French Quarter or in Marigny.
Should one split for a tour, or take a leisurely stroll down to Café du Monde for breakfast beignets, or take a trolley out to the Garden District, or soak up some sun by the pool, or get drunk on old-fashioned cocktails, or actually go and attend the workshops?
This is an expensive conference – most people didn’t come to simply hang out in New Orleans. However, I will say that New Orleans competes for our time and attention the way Denver never did (Denver was where UAC 2008 was held, and is a very boring city by comparison).
But there are other fatigue factors. The high heat and humidity is one of them. Unless you’re actually coming from the lower South, there is nowhere else in the United States this hot and humid in May. As soon as I arrived, I started feeling the need for “siesta” – there’s a reason why it’s such a central part of life in tropical places like New Orleans (NO).
Mermaid looking for a siesta...
As my roommate noted, there’s a huge number of women over 50 here. Not a lot of cute, straight guys. Not a lot of men, period. And not as many young people as one would hope – even with the scholarship program, a lot of young people under 35 find it too expensive to attend UAC.
This isn’t a specific UAC drawback, but I was surprised how many attendees I spoke with who do not read astrology books, or who own a lot of astrology books and admit to having never read them. People who have hang-ups about doing a lot of reading are the ones who tend to come to conferences – these are audio learners, or folks who need a teacher who will guide them through excerpts and worksheets because they aren’t the type to sit down and read books on their own.
Most of the speakers present new material at conferences at UAC, so being well-read isn’t essential to getting a lot from the conference. Still, as someone who is self-taught, and who not only reads but also takes notes on most of the astrology books that I own, this attitude leaves me a bit cold.
UAC HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR…
The conference organized shuttle buses to take us out to Mid-City for a NO institution – Friday night bowling with a dance floor and live music. UAC attendees only had the place to ourselves for a couple of hours – 7:30 – 9:30 pm, before it was opened to the public. But there was plenty of free wine & beer, and a New Orleans style buffet, and the lanes were all full. I can’t bowl to save my life, but a fellow hospitality volunteer, N., added me to her team, and, let’s just say they all took pity on me.
N. and I went out to a well-known hole-in-the-wall called Green Goddess before we caught the shuttle for Rock n Bowl. Located a few blocks behind our hotel, the place has outdoor seating, and some wonderfully strong, old-fashioned cocktails (plus a reputation for an excellent cheese plate). Like a lot of places in the French Quarter, it features ladies in a greater state of undress than one would ever see them at home. Many of these are black or mixed-race (NO has a very long history of non-white courtesans shaping the culture).
QUIK FASHION NOTE: I’m seeing a lot of women wearing thin, translucent lace in New Orleans – a great way to beat the heat and look feminine. I love this look. Don’t see much of it in DC.
QUIK PRALINE TIP: Evans Candy Factory in the French Market on Decatur Street makes a wicked creamy rum praline.
So N. and I sat around and talked a bit. We talked about our horoscopes – this is something that ladies at astrology conferences do a lot. N. had a very strong horoscope, with Regulus and Spica tightly conjunct two of her planets, in addition to a few other goodies. I have a very weak horoscope. So I talked about my sense that astrology stops one from playing the blame game – some of us draw a good horoscope with our first breath, and some of us don’t – but the native needs to make choices and move forward with what they get. Afterwards I reflected that the people with crappy horoscopes sometimes get far more interesting lives.
Meanwhile, N. told me about her sense that New Orleans is like a giant purgatory. Couldn’t argue that – NO is definitely a Sin City, more so than Las Vegas. It isn’t just the voodoo and the prostitution and the wild drunkenness on Bourbon St every night that spills over the rest of the French Quarter like a wave. Nor is it just the shadows from the past, those of Marie Laveau, or the rumor that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for all the black magic practiced in this city. The energy here IS edgy.
That edginess is what draws people. I would love to live here for a winter, but I wonder if I could make it through the monsoon season and the long, hot summer.
UAC 2012 LECTURES – WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY?
Attendees spend a considerable amount of time trading tips on the lectures and presenters they liked, because folks find that the lectures they most wanted to attend occur in the same time slot as one or two others that were also on their bucket list. So everyone wants tips on what recordings are worth the price at the end of the conference, as well as which ones might be worth skipping.
Here’s what I’ve liked so far:
GARY CATON – Rahu & Ketu: Transformation via the Cosmic Dragon
He’s a good speaker and a creative, thorough thinker. I know quite a bit about Rahu and Ketu, but Gary thought of some things that never occurred to me. Interesting material on the role Rahu & Ketu play in an eclipse. The recording should be worth buying.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see his, "Cycles of Mercury: Transformation & The Trickster," but I know that Gary was planning on staying two steps ahead of his audience by playing the trickster himself. He was going to give attendees the option of immediate gratification on door prizes vs. delayed gratification that could lead to prizes of greater or lesser value than those offered to the folks who chose instant gratification. Bet this would have been fun to watch!
SHIRLEY SOFFER – Mars & His Children
Soffer is an amazing speaker – her presentation is crystal clear, and she is very aware that she speaks to be recorded. She did a comprehensive run-down of the myths associated with Mars – he wasn’t just a vicious warrior, but also a lover who tended to be more loyal than Zeus, and a passionate defender of his children. She also showed how his children with Venus all represent some aspect of the experience of passionate love.
MICHAEL ERLEWINE – Tibetan Astrology
Don’t bother buying it if you weren’t there. Erlewine forgot his notes, so he decided to sit there and tell stories of his life for an hour. Since he’s had a fascinating life, this was not at all boring for attendees, but I doubt it will make a great recording.
Erlewine is 1960’s aristocracy. He is a musician who hitchhiked with Bob Dylan, counted Iggy Pop as his drummer, and who opened for bands like Cream. He was able to show off some amazing photos – like one of him as a young man interviewing Muddy Waters.
After the wild and crazy musician years, Erlewine founded Matrix software in 1977, one of the oldest software companies in the US. He did well financially with Matrix, and plowed a lot of that money into a compound in Big Rapids, MI known as The Heart Center. At its heart is an 8 bedroom house where many of the famous "greats" of 20th century astrology have spent time on extended retreat, including Dane Rudhyar , Rob Hand, Michel Gauquelin, and Charles Harvey. Rob Schmidt is now a scholar-in-residence there, while he heads up the exhaustive translation endeavor, Project Hindsight.
The multi-talented Erlewine also does photography at a near-professional level. His photos and those of others made this presentation exceptional.
DARBY COSTELLO – From Saturn in Libra to Scorpio: After the Work of Love, What Next?
The first part of her lecture was very strong. She is a dynamic speaker who can be powerful at the podium. The main point of her lecture on Saturn’s upcoming transit into Scorpio is that there will be a “frozen” quality to the experience of the house with Scorpio in the natal chart, and the challenge is up to the native to use the experience beneficially. The example she used is Medusa turning people to stone. No kidding!
Costello went off on tangents when it came time to look at horoscopes, however. She also used charts from her client files rather than focusing on well-known public figures. This presentation strategy is not my favorite, and her lecture was far less focused after this.
TO BE CONT’D.