Sunday, October 29, 2006

Many times today, I wished that children were born shaped like towels: soft, cushy, flat, and able to be satisfyingly wwwwwrrrrruuuunnnnngggg out.

Make no mistake, I love my son. I'd move heaven and earth for him. I get a kick out of the classes of young 'uns I've been teaching lately, even though I really need to tailor some of my lessons for the kindergarten-1st grade-aged kids. I've been sort of thrown into the frying pan as far as these younger ones and their art education. But I'm getting help from a certain amount of trial and error, from education literature, and from expert advisers such as my grandmother, my aunt's ex-husband's mother (take five - think about it- relax) and my mother-in-law. Yeah, it's long-distance advice, but I'm taking what I can get at this point.

I had to wonder today if daylight savings time had wrought some sort of havoc on the behavior of the kids in the class. It certainly wasn't the onset of the Saints' game today, because nobody presented me with a note pleading their case for early dismissal (although my teaching assistant didn't tell me until approximately 15 minutes before he had to leave that he needed to buck out of school a half-hour early. He's forgiven today because he's been a good assistant in my teaching schemes to date.). Maybe it was my sorry excuse for a lesson plan - should have had more pizazz, more Xeroxes for the kids, more of a review of the Ten Commandments before beginning a game based on them, a DVD player that would actually play the DVD, etc., etc. BUT the kids who were troublemakers to begin with bordered on psychotic today. The know-it-alls couldn't wait to show how much they knew, and not in a good way. One kid became a snarky realist, and I chided him for being SUCH the wet blanket (boy did I want to wring him out today) Good kids had meltdowns, and weird kids were certifiable. Had to send the two troublemakers to the ducation director's office today, even.

What did they put in the city's water today? Could it have been the effects of the hole opened up in my street by the Sewerage & Water Board dudes? I have to wonder.

I came home expecting things to be a little better, only to find my son chasing me around and saying "Kneedeep, kneedeep" over and over again like a Sesame Street Muppet frog (okay, so I claim partial responsibility for encouraging this with some "kneedeeps" of my own), and then shoving things under the door and trying to break it down while I was in the bathroom. At a local park, where I made the attempt at having him let off some steam and energy, he tossed a mini soccer ball from the height of a kiddie play equipment fire engine at me and got me in the face. I transferred the wild man over to another park where there were waaay more kids playing, and then I met the most darling eleven-month-old.

God help me. Just when I think there is no possible way I will be letting my body and soul contribute to placing a new human being on this earth, I get thrown a curveball that twists me around and imbeds me in the ground a little. And the curve was this little cutie.

At first I thought she was a boy. I can never really tell these things to begin with, but she did have short hair and overalls on. And the clothes she wore were not overly girly. But she walked right over to the kiddie bike my son had commandeered temporarily (It's in the toddler creed somewhere that a toy that is not one's own is WAY more interesting), dinged the bell on it and gave me a gap-toothed smile, and I was charmed. Her grandma was nearby, and I dinged the bell again so the woman could get a digital camera shot of that winning punim. The little one sort of ambled through the playground (she was an early walker) and stared in infant wonder at the older kids around her. It was a whole new world, hers for the taking in. And her attitude pulled me in.

Could it be, after a major demonstration of all the ways in which children can be infuriating, obnoxious, annoying, and downright horrific (quote from "The War At Home": "Hey, I have three kids. Every day is a punishment.") , things that I can feel in my bones, the hints and whispers of what can still befall me and my husband as our son ages and changes...could it be that I am actually entertaining the idea of having another kid?

I had the potential kid names conversation with my husband over dinner this evening.

That's a sign of leaning towards the consideration of having another child.

Oh, boy. Pray for me, y'all.

For someone who, at one point, vowed she would remain childless all her life, and was determined to work at occupations that did not involve anyone under the age of eighteen, I am now akin to Miss Hannigan in Annie. I am surrounded, and it doesn't entirely feel good. Then again, this has not been one of my better weekends.

At the last minute, I was able to get a sitter last night so that Dan and I could attend a performance of John Corigliano's Clarinet Concerto at the Convention Center auditorium. Yeah, the same infamous convention center that was the site of so much pain and suffering over a year ago. Last night it was the site of a fantastic performance of the concerto. And it reminded me of the days when Dan and I could, on a whim, head out to a New Orleans Friends of Music chamber music concert, or to a Louisiana Philharmonic performance such as this. I miss those days.

I also miss heading to things like a night performance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Voodoo Music Festival, which happened this weekend. A fellow religious school instructor said that that was what was tough about being a mom when things like the Chili Peppers show were going on - it was tough to find a sitter so that you could go yourself, because most of the potential sitters were most likely in attendance at the show you wanted to go to. Sigh.

And then I listen to things like "Crescent City" on the radio and wish to God I could hop on down to Le Chat Noir theater in the Quarter and laugh my head off at the antics of the Live Nude Radio Players, get a load of Astral Project's music, and take in Ronnie Virgets as emcee and interviewer in person. I highly recommend linking to WWNO online and setting some time aside on Sunday nights to get a window into N'awlins cultcha.

Yeah, I know. I need to find regular reliable babysitters. I need to schedule my time better. I need way more time with just myself and my husband.

The problem is, I find this so difficult to do with just one child. What the heck will happen if I have another?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sewerage & Water Board equipment and workers amassed themselves on our street earlier today. They sat there for a while, and then began digging up the water line to our neighbors' yard. We have a cobblestoned street, so it entailed ripping out a number of stones as well as loads of concrete and dirt. They were in the thick of it from just after 1 PM, when the rains finally died down. When I went to pick up my son from school around 3 PM, I was greeted with the sight of the S & WB guys standing around and having a giggle at the two-story geyser of water they had just unleashed from their excavations. I asked them if they were looking for black gold, and they laughed some more.

Oh, boy.

When I returned with my son, we parked on a side street and walked carefully around the hole, the stones, and the dirt, and my son was fascinated. The only thing that could tear him away from the sight was the promise of viewing the Curious George DVD for the umpteenth time. Thankfully, the geyser was no more. Doubly thankfully, our water pressure was still good. I guess if our water hose is disconnected from our neighbors' house, we can conclude that their water pressure has been fixed.

The street is another matter.

What gives me hope is that the monster crater by Children's Hospital has finally been filled in and paved over, and if the city can do that, then by God, they most certainly can get to the spot in our street. Sane people would think so, anyway. But they'd probably be in error.

If the city DOT really had its heads screwed on correctly, they'd rip out all the cobblestones and just pave the street. But then they'd get flak from all these folks in their renovated mansions saying the construction crews would contribute greatly to shaking up the foundations of their homes. And I hate to say it, but I now would probably be one of those people. Sitting in my house and websurfing earlier today, I could feel the house shake every time the shovel of the S & WB backhoe made contact with the ground. And I'm on the second floor of one of the old New Orleans houses - 12 foot ceilings, huge windows, anyone who's seen it knows it. So my house has been around for over a hundred years - Katrina showed everyone how easy it can be for that kind of history to be wiped off the earth.

So I guess the cobblestoned street, and the weirdly scored concrete patches in it from filled-in excavations, is here to stay.

I need to set up an online betting pool now as to when the hole on our street will be paved over. The countdown begins today...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Well, it started out as a nice family weekend to Atlanta.

It has culminated in - I just can't describe it in one word.

As I type this, I've got a headache. I'm hoping and praying I don't get the bug that my husband got from my son. It caused Dan to vomit in the car while we were driving through Slidell on the way back home. He was so distressed at having done so that I shelved my comment that Slidell couldn't possibly be that bad, giving him a chance to clean himself up.

Oh please Lord, don't let me puke.

We tried to leave for my sister-in-law's engagement party on Friday morning. Dan needed to get the flag off his last-held Louisiana driver's license, so I resigned myself to waiting for him to call and give us the go-ahead once he was done. He left our house at 8 AM and finally got the flag removed in time for lunch. It wasn't the DMV's fault, it was our insurance company's. They apparently didn't know how to use a fax machine, and by the time they faxed the information to the DMV, it was the wrong information.

So we got on the road, got a little lost getting to our hotel in Atlanta, picked up some medicine for our sniffly son who peed in his carseat twice (okay, so the potty-training deal with him is only mostly done), and collapsed into our nice suite after having to wash all my son's wet clothes and carseat cover in the hotel bathtub, hang 'em up to dry, and wait for the air to work its magic.

"The best part about today," Dan said, "is that it ends in 45 minutes."

And then we had ourselves a lovely day. The next day was perfect weather-wise, we got to have breakfast with my cousin who was raised and still lives in Atlanta, and we reminisced a bit about my aunt's hijinks, which occasionally border on the scatterbrained. I love my aunt immensely, but there have been one too many occasions involving mishaps and funnies with her vehicles and her pets. For a long time, my aunt and uncle were a tad infamous in their neighborhood due to their chocolate Lab being spied up on the roof of their house on a regular basis, barking at anything moving in the trees or out on the street. My aunt has backed out of her garage without bothering to see if the door was open (it wasn't). She has pulled into her garage and heard the horrible din of the bicycles tethered to the roof of the car she was driving coming into contact with the side of the garage and then the asphalt driveway. My personal favorite mess combined animals and cars: a Lab puppy my aunt acquired a number of years ago was accidentally locked into the garage, and it chewed the mud flaps off the Land Rover in the garage out of sheer puppy nervousness. Oops.

We then headed off to the Georgia Aquarium to meet up with my sister-in-law and her fiance. I chose to stick The Life Aquatic soundtrack into our CD player on the way to the place - you know, trip to the aquarium and all deserves some Seu Jorge singing some David Bowie in Portuguese. We nearly finished the entire album by the time we got to the place, and I then realized how much Atlanta had become like Houston, where I grew up. The Life Aquatic was also an oddly appropriate choice to back our trip down Peachtree Street.

The new aquarium is quite spiffy. We checked out some major fish exhibits, took in my son's favorites, the penguins, for a while, and then the little guy decided the interactive exhibit was the place to be because of the big lighthouse that was featured at its entrance. So hey, I missed the sharks and the jellyfish, but I did get to slide down a big slide in the shape of a whale. Okay, so the only way to go down the slide was through the whale's elevated butt, but it was still fun. Frank Gehry has designed buildings that involve fish butts, too. So what?

Later that night, we schlepped our way to my sister-in-law's in-laws-to-be (Just pause and think about that one for a bit. Take your time.). The little guy was a big hit, as was my assistance with the wine and mojito bar (hey, somebody's got to work the corkscrew), the small photo album the fiance's mom put together of the bride and groom to be from birth on up to the present day, and the food and company. It also highlighted what a hybrid I am in terms of where I come from.

I am technically Southern, having been born in Tennessee, but I was raised Jewish in Houston, Texas - a whole 'nother religious orientation in a whole 'nother country. My dad is a New Yorker, and after my sophomore year of high school, we ended up in central Pennsylvania. My sister-in-law gets the differences between her parents and her future in-laws - among them coercion by indirection. Southerners can be expert at easing people into what the proper thing to do is, something that is fast becoming a lost art in this day and age, because that tactic can get utterly lost on those not versed in the intricacies of being polite. The problem with the politeness thing is that it can cause you to second-guess so much of what you do. I get a tad guilty because whenever I am around any relatives of mine who are from the South, I end up sliding right into their accent and rolling it around in my mouth. Then I get a tad mortified that they might think I'm making fun, when I'm not. It's just my Pavlovian response to the accent - having been raised by my grandparents in my early early years, I absorbed my grandmother's south Georgia accent and my granddaddy's Knoxvillian tones, and they do kick around in me from time to time.

At any rate, the Southerners can always tell that I've been outa the South a bit too long somewhere in my past. The friends I have from other parts of the country, however, see me as a Southerner because I still say "y'all". Sigh.

The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch an early flight out of Atlanta to get to teaching my religious school class back home, only to find Delta had canceled my flight and the one after it to New Orleans. Sticking me on a 10 AM flight wasn't going to cut it. I was pretty mad. Stupid airlines. It had nothing to do with the weather - the flights were deemed underbooked and cancel-able by Delta's decree. I got my refund and fumed that Delta had failed to honor the 21st century Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not cancel a flight out from under a teacher who is bent on teaching the Ten Commandments to children. The damn airline was impeding post-Katrina recovery, as far as I was concerned (and I still think so - hell, Microsoft canceled some meetings that were supposed to be held here because the airlines weren't scheduling enough flights).

Anyhoo, I had a nice brunch with the fiance's family, and then we traipsed off to New Orleans in the car. It was on the way back, somewhere a little before the Mississippi Gulf coast, when my husband started to get his sickness symptoms, a sure sign he'd caught the bug our son had. He tried to cough up some phlegm, but ended up tossing it up instead. We got back home late and fell into bed, exhausted and, in my husband's case, sick.

Monday morn, I dropped my son off at school, came back home, called the school where I will be teaching art two afternoons a week, and got a nasty shock. My teaching stint was beginning that very day, not on Tuesday, as I'd originally thought. I pulled myself together, got a lesson plan on, came into school, and got the second and third graders jazzed about puppetry and marionettes. The kindergarten and first graders were a wet blanket, however. I knew coming in that they'd be a tough bunch because of some kids with behavioral problems in the class, but their homeroom teacher, who was in attendance, wasn't helping much with the project at hand.

"They're not going to finish this papier-mache by the end of class!" No they won't. That's fine.
"You should have prepared some of this stuff well beforehand." Okay, you've got a point there. Tell me this when the kids are NOT in the classroom.
"Are you sure there's enough glue in the water? It'll just get all wet again when they put some more newspaper on." Uh-huh. It's why we're not finishing the puppets until another day.

I'm very afraid this woman is going to tank my first attempts at teaching art to this age group. Hell, I'm afraid I'm going to tank my first attempts, and it doesn't help to have a personification of all the worrywart voices in my head standing right there in the classroom. Just got to suck it all up and see what works and what doesn't, I guess. I just hope the parents and administrators won't get hysterical because the kids aren't producing one thing to take home every day. Maybe I'm in the wrong place to begin with. Maybe I need to go for Montessori methods and head for a Montessori school instead. Oh boy, my headache was going away, and now I can feel it returning just thinking about this...

There is also a strong possibility that our street will be ripped up so that our neighbors' water pressure can return to normal. They are currently hooked into our water through a hose they have run from our front yard spigot through to their yard, and they are sharing our water expenses until the problem gets fixed. Sewerage and Water Board workers came to see what the deal was, dug a hole in their yard to get to the water line, and used the time-honored method of laying a shovel blade on the pipe and listening through the handle to see if the problem was in our neighbors' yard or out under the street. The worker determined that it was the city's problem, and when our neighbor asked if he was sure, he got served a tad by the worker's companion. "He's been doin' this twenty-five years! He knows what he's doin'!" Okay, okay. Fine.

I just hope it doesn't turn into this. Then we'll be out of luck, and out of nearby street parking, for at least a month.

Time to plan another trip...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Karon Killian, where are you?

Are you well? Is everything okay? Have you just given up on your business? If the answer to the last question is yes, that's understandable. The work that you do (did?) is wonderful, the kits that you make comprehensive, the designs you do bear the stamp of a true artist. And yet, the latest kit of yours I have in my possession is dated 2004.

Ms Killian does have an address in Wisconsin. I picked up two kits of hers through a favorite shop of mine in New York and I bought a number of them on eBay. I keep trying her website, but it's down. The retailers I have talked to or emailed about her have told me her business phone was disconnected.

It's just a crying shame.

The people who know me know how much of a cross-stitch and needlepoint nut I have become. My grandmother died a number of years ago, and on a whim one day, I went to a shop down the street from where I worked, browsed through their cross-stitch patterns and needlepoint canvasses, thought of the things my grandmother used to needlepoint (mostly plastic canvas stuff), and walked out with a cross-stitch kit of a Walter Anderson Blue Crab woodcut print. With that purchase, I began my long, slow road to embroidery stash oblivion. I have patterns I haven't gotten to yet. I have evenweave fabric waiting to be stitched. I have four boxes of cotton embroidery floss. My stash has taken over a corner of our walk-in closet and it threatens to take over our bedroom and living room.

And now, because of Karon Killian's designs, I'm getting into hand-dyed specialty threads and some ribbon embroidery to boot. Oh, how the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the need to see one's progress in stitching. I am certifiable. It is guaranteed that I will die and all this damn embroidery floss and ribbons will be what does me in.

But how can I pass up the following: a pattern depicting a dude in his underwear, sittin' in an easy chair with a beer in hand, while his woman stands there and pulls out her attempt at seduction: "Hold me, savor me, press me to your lips. Pretend I'm a beer"? A counted cross-stitch chart of Tiffany's Wisteria stained glass window? Kits of Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass (involving loads of backstitching, by the way)? A cute kitten chart, just right for my friend Edie, with two kittens peering out from behind an imagined corner and the moniker, "I never repeat listen closely"? I've finished a LOT of things I've started, but there are many more that I've begun and need finishing, or just need to be started.

Since I had my son, and quit glassblowing full time when I was pregnant and sick as a dog my first few months, I was itching to do something with my hands. I couldn't exactly set up a home furnace in all the apartments we lived in in Queens, renting time at the UrbanGlass public access studio in Brooklyn would have been a costly schlep, and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into full-time mommyhood. Hence, the triple twist, deep-sea dive I made into needlework. God help me...

Well, in a way, at this time in my life, God has.

Most of the time, what I'm working on is portable. I get a sense of accomplishment from it, since I can see my progress on a regular basis. And it is a great stress-buster. Plus, most of the finished stuff makes great gifts.

I've heard many horrific things recently. Someone informed me of a shooting that occurred a block away from my home a few weeks ago, probably when I was out of town. My neighbor was assaulted one morning while she was walking her dog. A lovely birthday bash held next door by our neighbors and their friends, most of whom have October birthdays, had the police called on it by an irate neighbor in a muumuu, ticked that a nice three-piece jazz combo was playing in our neighbors' backyard on a Saturday night after 10 PM (This is New Orleans, for crying out loud. Not so long ago, the other folks living near the party would have joined in at some point...) .

I'd cry my eyes out if I weren't already on antidepressants and had to stay strong for my son. I'd drink, smoke, or do drugs to excess, but the money involved in THAT makes it an expensive proposition, I need my strength to raise my son, and the overall health problems resulting from excessive use of all that crap would probably do me in in a way that I don't think I'd like. Gambling is just OUT for me, despite the video poker machines all over and Harrah's downtown. I'm slacking off on buying books because my husband is begging me not to stuff any more onto our jammed bookshelves, plus, I'm getting more choosy about what I want to purchase (not easy in a town whose library system has been decimated). I've never been much of a high-fashion nut, I don't have a shoe fetish, and I don't want to spend loads of dough to look good.

Hence, the needlepoint.

And my discovery of Karon Killian's work. If you get a chance, read this: and you'll see what I mean. She's a real artist. The deisgns have been carefully worked out, complete with instructions on the construction of the boxes and the finishing of them. If I could somehow resurrect her small company, Whiskey Creek Ink, from whatever form of oblivion it seems to have fallen into, I'd do it. Because for me, working on these designs has been a lifesaver.

Ms Killian, I hope you don't mind. I want to use floss, perforated paper, and cardboard like you do and create some designs of my own. I'd give you a great deal of credit, of course, even send a royalty on the use of your finishing patterns somehow. Them lil' boxes are teaching me something about patience at this crazy time in my life, about care. Working on them creates mental health breaks and refuges for me, putting me into a meditative state of sorts when I stitch 'em up.

I want to find a way to stitch in my experiences. To weave in some of this city I live in and how my son sees it (every RV is a FEMA trailer now, every ruined neighborhood is a part of New Orleans, but not a part of it). To get myself and others healing again. And maybe, just maybe, to find a way to put most of this stuff in a little box and close the least for a little while.

Ms Killian, I am grateful to you for your unwitting gifts you have put out into this world. Be well and live well. And get some of your own needle therapy in what must be one hectic life.

Friday, October 13, 2006

When my husband first bought the house in which we live, he got an energy bill that reflected the electricity use of one of the office buildings downtown rather than a house divvied up into four apartments. They were clearly off on this one, and Dan was able to call the billers on it. It helped that Dan was in grad school at the time and could take the time to handle the gross miscalculation of the electric company. Dan always has a giggle at that one.

Today, I read this:

I'm not laughing. At all.

Yes, our energy prices are higher because supposedly Entergy is taking up the slack of fewer customers returning to resume paying local utilities' fees. No, no one really believes that a Fortune 500 company such as Entergy really needs to be charging these kinds of prices. At the rate we're going here, however, I'm going to need to stock up on kerosene and hurricane lamps, work on washing clothes by hand, and look into the purchase of a generator. Nice to know that corporate America is helping push this area even further into the Third World than it already was.

I saw the headline of Chris Rose's recent column, though, and my heart sank. Because Harry Anderson was involved.

My husband asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary this year (May 20). I instantly told him I wanted to see Harry Anderson's show in the Quarter. We went to Oswald's, the club Anderson owns on Decatur Street, and witnessed a great live show that culminated in an amazing card trick that brought down the house. For those of you who only vaguely recognize the man's name, or who only know him from his stints on Night Court and Dave's World, Harry Anderson really wanted to be a magician, and started out as such. He now has the money to do the magic thing full time. It started with his only selling magic tricks by appointment from a storefront named Sideshow. Then he opened up Oswald's and got back into performing again.

Once the storm blew through, Anderson offered up Oswald's as a town hall meeting place for neighborhood gatherings. He was another one of the Quarter's characters that loved the Quarter for its character, past and present. But now, he's giving up the ship.

Granted, the man can be a cantankerous sort. He's earned the right to speak his mind, to make his own decisions. I share his disdain and disgust at the goings-on in local government, at the slow pace of rebuilding, at the obstacles that are cropping up daily for people who just want to live here once again. See ya, Harry. I hope you like Asheville.

What made me a little sick, though, is that someone who once loved this city so, made it a point to move here after a few decades of making his fortune, and even took some steps to try to make it better is now bidding it good bye and good riddance. My initial thought was that this was bad, bad news. I guess what I was really thinking was, I wasn't born here, either. If Harry Anderson can't cut it, what's keeping me here? What's my tolerance level?

Will it be when my husband, my son, or I myself get some crippling injury or disease that requires treatment that isn't available here? Will it be another move due to a job change? Will it be when I'm old and gray and need to be stuck in a home somplace? The LAST thing I want is to be in a place like St Rita's where thirty-plus elderly and infirm people were left to drown in rising floodwater. That's where Douglas Brinkley's book got to me the most was in the accounts of flooded hospitals and homes devoid of electricity in which elderly and sick people were struggling in the heat.

Our mayor is a godawful joke (the Car 54 moniker Chris Rose gives to Nagin is from when the mayor was traveling around the country after his reelection rather than staying put and helping get things done. The mayor is back and we all still want to say, "Where ARE you???"). Since a recent city census put the population of the city at a much lower number than was originally thought, it only puts the murder rate here into even more perspective. BAD perspective.

So my home has problems.

What will be the straw that breaks my back?

For Anderson, it was Nagin's reelection. Anderson was only here for six years. He should have been around when Marc Morial was mayor. When the public school system was really reeeeeeally bad. When way more gutter punks roamed the Quarter (then again, I think Harry was assaulted by some of 'em because he bought the space that became Oswald's - it had been a hangout for the GPs.). When the really bad cops had set up shop here and hadn't yet been driven out by storm conditions and the need for self-preservation.

No this isn't the New Orleans he once knew. Hell, this isn't even the New Orleans I once knew. But there's room in my heart for what it could be. If that sounds sentimental and sappy as all get-out, so be it. I still like it here, overall. And I'm still darn curious about how it's all going to turn out.

I guess I'm one of the nuts Harry Anderson was never adequately warned about.

It's all right, Harry. I didn't vote for Nagin. Give me some credit...

Monday, October 09, 2006

(just some lil' life stories)

Early morning, getting us all ready to take an early flight out to visit the in-laws. My son is waking kinda slowly and crankily, and he whines as I put on his shoes and socks:
"Mommy, where's the suitcase Daddy brought to the car and put in the trunk?"
Me: "You just answered your own question, little man."
Him: "Oh."
He thinks a second, then smiles. "That was funny, wasn't it?" he says, slyly.

We return from our travel to California, my son and I, faced with Jewish holiday number three: Sukkot, the first of the harvest holidays and the festival of booths, commemorating the wanderings of the mixed multitude of Egyptian evacuees from Pharaoh's tyranny and the temporary structures in which they stayed. For the first time since I was a young 'un, we have a home sukkah to put up, and I set it up on our second story porch just outside our big picture windows. Everyone has to bend down to get through a big window, out of the house, and onto the porch, but the sukkah fits onto the porch and is easy to put up.

Since the sukkah came with everything (sides, roofing, and poles) except for the fruit and vegetable decorations and supports for the roof mat, I have to drag my son out to the hardware store to get 1 inch by 2 inch by 8 foot supports, and to the grocery store to pick up some produce for hanging. At the Lowe's we go to, he is enthralled with the inflatable giant snow globe Christmas decorations that are on sale. At Whole Foods, we are surrounded by food being sold as autumn decorations, and various types of squash and pumpkins on sale for eating and Halloween carving.

Once we get home, however, the roof is on the top and the produce is hanging from the ceiling, and my son loves it the most. We have a religiously-sanctioned kids' playhouse, in his book, and he calls out to our neighbors to come in and see the sukkah (he says suuue-kah), thus taking to heart the other mitzvah involved in the celebration of Sukkot: the welcoming of Ushpizin, or guests, into the sukkah for the week-long life of the structure. One sukkah wall even has a "treatment of guests" silkscreened on it in Hebrew, proclaiming that ushpizin must be treated as the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as Jacob's son Joseph, as Moses and Aaron who brought us out of Egypt, and as King David. It seems we have found our oasis from seasonal and Christian consumerism between the walls of a 6 by 8 foot temporary hut.

Of course my husband thinks we should have pulled down some banana leaves from our backyard trees and stuck them on the roof instead of the bamboo mat that is up there now, but hey, there's always next year...

After I finished teaching religious school yesterday, we headed off, as a family, to our rabbi's home to enjoy refreshments, his backyard sukkah, the Moon Bounce he had for the kids in the front yard, and the company of others. We also end up watching the Saints beat the Buccaneers by three. My husband commented on how warm and inviting the rabbi's house was. Our sukkah party host became the rabbi of our New Orleans congregation last year, just before the hurricane hit, and he and his wife both are a great fit to our community. The contrast between our new rabbi and our rabbi emeritus was put into even greater relief as a result.

Some people want that respectable distance between their rabbi's private and public lives. Some rabbis want that, too. Our rabbi emeritus was embracing people who wanted that more spiritual, and personal, approach to their clergy, but his overall demeanor still held them at arm's length. That distance became greater when he left his position as pulpit rabbi, making way for our current rabbi, who has a young family of three kids, and whose wife is also a rabbi. Katrina's passing may well have thrown our current rabbi and his congregation much closer together than any other new rabbi and congregation ever - I don't hear as many people kvetching about the differences between the old and new rabbis as I thought I would. The man and his family are a darn good fit for this community at this time and place. May it ever be so, as the priestly blessing is echoed...

My neighbors took care of our pets recently while we were away, and they took in my dog, Gilda, quite literally. She hung out with the family and the dogs and cats next door, but our neighbor detected a need for solitude in my dog, which I could have spelled out right off. She's pushing eight or nine years old, my dog, and she does get some excitement from hassling our cats every so often, but she thoroughly enjoys being the only dog, and she loves people. That need for solitude, though, is what truly makes her MY DOG. If people can look like their animals, and vice versa, there's something to be said for like personalities between people and their familiars.

Gilda and I are even more alike than I thought.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

For this month’s Blogging for Books contest:
Any time in your life when you were frightened out of your skull.

(I keep doing the Blogging for Books thing, folks, because I love a challenge, and I love books, much to my husband's chagrin. One of these days, I'll get that Amazon gift cert. Till then...)

Once again, I am going back, back, back to my college glassblowing days. Back to when I had a glassworking partner who was also a night owl and had no qualms about taking over the late-night blow slots - the ones that could be stretched from nine PM until the school building's true closing at two AM. Five hours of nothing but hot glass, y'all. I was in heaven.

Because I was wedded to glass at this time, I didn't spend much time at my room in a school-owned apartment house, one I shared with my best college friend and her first-year roomie. My best friend was majoring in sculpture, whereas I had succumbed to the challenge and allure of the glass program. She had much more time to make our college digs her own, but I simply used it as a place to sleep when I wasn't with my boyfriend or in the glass studio, and as a place to change clothes. Had to get those burnt-newspaper smelling shirts and jeans off me so that I wouldn't be a total stinker in public. I'd gotten to like the smell of burnt, wet newspaper sheets, the closest I could get to shaping glass with my hand without burning the heck out of myself.

I was learning the ways of working with this new material, while my best friend was making her way through the sculpture classes she was taking. She was slowly realizing that the department was way more artsy than she'd thought, and it had little room for someone of her seamstress abilities, with her affinity for Claes Oldenburg's soft sculpture food, and with her love of fantasy, the SCA, and Jim Henson. Still and all, she was making the best of it and working as hard as I was. Because we were both so busy, we didn't check up with each other much on our latest assignments. After IT happened, I realized I should have checked up on what she was up to.

I had another marathon five-hour blow slot and staggered uphill all the way home to my apartment room. I was pooped, smelled like the aforementioned burnt newspaper, and was ready to collapse into my bed. I walked one flight of stairs up to my place, unlocked the door, took a left into my bedroom I shared with my best friend, and got the shock of my life.

I gasped so hard, and sucked in so much air that I nearly hyperventilated. There was a killer on the loose, I could tell, and whoever it was had killed my friend. This was a sick mind at work, too; I could tell from the streetlight glow through the window beyond that my friend had been posed in her director's chair against the left wall, holding her teacup like she usually did when sitting and reading, even bending her head in the same way. Oh, my God...

Wait a minute...

I recovered and looked again, in order to calmly tell the police what I saw once I dialed 911 and they came looking for clues. I realized then that I didn't need to tell them a thing.

Because my friend was asleep in her bed. The thing that was sitting in her chair was a life size doll in perfect proportions to my friend herself. That night, she had finished it and posed it in her chair, complete with her glasses sitting on the doll's nose. I recovered slowly from the shock, and, art fool that I was and am, marveled at my friend's craft and imagination. The light of day the next morning revealed the doll to be made of a purple and black burnout floral pattern fabric. Its limbs were tied together with black ribbons, and the same ribbons made up the hair on the doll's head. Not bad for a self-portrait project. I think she did well with it grade-wise, too, though she enjoyed the challenge of making a fully poseable life-size doll much more than the whole grading process.

I sure wish the sculpture class critique group could have seen that doll the way I saw it, though. The doll had transformed our student room into a macabre noir vignette for a few seconds. Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James Ellroy could well have been slouching in the shadows that night. It was shortly after my scare that friends of mine in the glass department took me out for a late-night snack and dragged me to an H.P. Lovecraft memorial that was close by. He must have been in my room too...