Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's the end of hurricane season. Everyone can breathe a small sigh of relief around here until May comes around once again. However, those folks in FEMA trailers must do a voluntary evac in the event of a severe winter storm, such as a nice trip to a local mall for a few hours. The phrase from Mater in the movie Cars comes to mind, "Ahm happier than a tornada inna trailer park!!!!!" Well, if the winter storms are packing a little destruction in, they'll be ecstatic about the Greater New Orleans area.

It is also the end of my blogging every day for a month. Thank God.

I guess happenings within a thirty-day period can be classified into the usual and the unusual.

The usual:
- Getting up in the morning
- Getting my son to preschool
- Walking the dog twice a day
- Doing a neighborhood recovery/restoration check
- Eating three meals a day, more or less
- Teaching art and/or Judaism three times a week
- Picking up the little guy from school
- Getting the little guy ready for bed
- Doing some reading
- Doing some needlepoint
- Greeting my husband when he arrives home from work
- Picking up the daily paper and the mail
- Blah, blah, blah

The unusual:
- The pothole from hell that is in Day 32 of its torturous (to us) existence.
- Funny remembrances of glassblowing days past ( see this, this, and, oh, this)
- The little guy's newfound love for James Brown
- Interactions with family in a different state (in more ways than one)
- Standardized testing
- Manipulative school administrators, and the PTOs that go along with 'em. God help us all.
- Hiking for tree recovery
- Teaching philosophies
- And a different kind of blah, blah, blah.

I guess.

Bottom line? Stuff happens in a month.
And no, I will not be volunteering to blog again for every day in December. None of this Holidailies stuff for me. Time for life to resume some semblance of normality that includes a tad less blogging.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh, lovely. I have to get some kind of post in before Blogger's scheduled outage at 10 PM my time.

My grandparents may well have a point concerning technological advances. Not that they've ever come out and said anything in particular about it, but they have always lived their lives in such a way that they just don't care about those advances.

They have certainly been dragged, kicking and screaming, into encounters with technology that are usually orchestrated by my dad the technophile. Their Betamax was replaced by a VHS through my father's instigation. My dad conspired with my aunt's ex once to get my grandparents a new TV because my dad was sick of having to adjust the horizontal hold on the old TV every time he visited. Dad got my grandparents onto the Internet by giving them a computer that he had deemed obsolete for his purposes, but he and my brother both made sure that the machine was set up for my grandparents to send and receive email, at least.

The only time my grandparents will get on the computer to do anything related to email, however, is at night, just before they go to bed. They still have a dial-up connection, and they are afraid of missing any calls during the day. My grandmother chided me for getting online in mid-morning on her computer recently, because no one would be able to get through the phone line. I talked with her about getting a second phone line so that she could receive her calls, and then I remembered my good buddy DSL. She latched on to the idea, and we called AT&T to see what kind of plans they offered...

...only to have our initial attempt at researching the service thwarted by that disgusting technological innovation, the super-detailed voice mail system. A labyrinth of such four-dimensional proportions and Pavlovian button-pushing complexity that it makes mere mortals scream in frustration and behave like the apes in 2001:A Space Odyssey when they come in contact with the monolith. We never actually did get to speak with a flesh and blood humanoid in our individual attempts to bypass all the numerical options the AT&T system gleefully and sadistically provided us, but I did learn that AT&T WorldCom doesn't offer DSL in my grandparents' neck of the woods.

Dan asked my grandma what she thought of Optimum Online. "It's associated with Cablevision, which we are already giving loads of money to for our cable TV," she said.

So it's looking like Verizon, once my grandparents switch over their long distance service, too.

My grandparents' general attitude towards the switch, however, is that it will happen when it happens. There's no rush. And I'm finding, more and more, that there's a great deal of truth to that attitude in a number of ways.

So yeah, there will be an outage. So I can't post on a fellow Blogger's blog unless he/she is on Blogger beta. So I can't control the turning of the world with the touch of a button. Something must be wrong if it's not being done right this second, right?


Instead of fretting over the impending outage, I will finish this post shortly and leave that behind in the past. My blog, overall, will live to see another day. And if it don't? C'est la vie.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ahhh, home sweet home. DSL, sweet DSL.

I am back. Back to New Orleans. Back to a precious few flights on which we can now return to New Orleans since the storm hit. Granted, this time we were late for our flight out at LaGuardia because my husband insisted on buying two dozen bagels from his favorite bagel place in downtown Brooklyn and I went along with it, forgetting in the whole adventure how merciless traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway can get. So we ended up at the world's worst airport, DC National, and we were on standby for the last flight out to NOLA. My son and I made it on. Dan will have to come in on an 8:00 AM flight tomorrow, if they don't cancel it out from under him first.

At any rate, now Delta and US Airways are On Notice as far as I'm concerned (sorry, Steven Colbert). Come ON. Schedule some more flights to New Orleans, why don't you. And don't stuff people onto one of those Embraer planes that only seat eighty-some-odd. Help out with Gulf Coast recovery, please.

I need to compose a good letter to the CEOs of those two airlines and flood their offices somehow...

So yes, I've returned. I'm having to acclimate myself once again to my ten-year-old four door sedan after driving around NYC in the Rollovermobile for the past week or so. I miss 90.7 WFUV, but there's still The Problem Child on WWOZ down here. I highly recommended Emeril's NOLA restaurant in the Quarter to a lady on the plane who is volunteering to help with recovery down here for a bit. She fretted a bit about her efforts being a drop in the bucket in the scheme of the recovery, and I told her the city would thank her tremendously.

Hello, DELTA!!! US AIRWAYS!!! Yet another way you can help, hint, hint! Provide some larger planes to carry all these wonderful people, who are daring to do the right thing and help, down to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast!!!!

Oh, my God, I am exhausted. I need to do better than post some angry rant.

'Night, all.

But rest assured, I WILL be thinking real hard about that letter to the airlines...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Someone tell me once again why I am attempting to enter the teaching profession.

No, really. I want to know.

"It's the best profession for a woman," my grandma says, citing her thirty-plus years of full-time teaching and her current stint as a sub. She says if she had to do it all over again, she'd do it and go one further, into teaching administration.

I wish she had. I wish more people like her were doing so, because after the story she told me about how parents and their children took advantage of weak school administrators to oust a teacher at a school where she subs gives me the chills.

I didn't hear all the details of the story, but the teacher in question is now teaching at a different school. Her former students once spoke openly about how their parents banded together and wrote a letter. A subbing teacher brought this to the principal's attention, and the principal dealt with it in a manner my grandma said was inadequate. Parents had apparently been wanting to be rid of this particular teacher for a long time, and it took one child making an accusation against this teacher for this to happen.

And because everything is tied up in lawsuits, the teachers remaining at the school don't know what really happened. They are afraid for their jobs and suspicious of the kids and the administrators. Rumors are flying.

Now, as a parent, I want to know as much about what is going on in my kid's school as the next person. If my kid is being bullied or treated unfairly, or left behind in some way, I want to know about it. I want to see what will remedy the situation from my end, and if things are getting out of hand, other options that possibly involve changing the class my kid is in, or even changing schools, might be in order. I also will need to take whatever my kid says about his school day with a grain of salt. He isn't always right, and if he were, he'd probably be off raising himself. He has been known to take toys from school before and to try to pass it by me that the teacher said it was OK.

"Oh, and is it all right if I ask her about it?" I asked my truthful (!) son.

Dead silence from him.

"Uh-huh, I thought so. It goes back tomorrow, kid."

"OOooooh-kaaaaayy," he said, dejectedly. He'd been found out.

If I'm harsh just for being mom and calling my son's bluff , I shudder at what kinds of things could get me fired once I become a full-fledged teacher. And at what sorts of people could aid in that sort of enterprise. I would hate for things to get so bad that a kid can't be chided for not doing his homework. Or for misbehaving in class and getting in the way of a lesson.

Things have certainly changed since my grandma was in her teaching heyday. I have to hope that overall, those changes are for the better, because Lord knows the educational system in this country needs a shot in the arm from capable people willing to stand up for what they believe.

Otherwise, I believe I will be in for a tough time.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My husband and I were driving to my grandparents' to settle in after our wild and crazy night at the shwarma grill, where we knew most of the restaurant staff and some of the patrons who happened in while we were there with our family. Dan laughed a little at what the relatives must think of us, and then he mentioned that we had really begun to settle in to the area when we lived in Queens. "We could have made a life here," he said.

Oh, the speculation. The "what-ifs" such a statement begs.

We moved from New York because my husband found another job that took us out of the area. It just so happened that job was in Baton Rouge. We had no clue that we'd be leaving the New York City area that soon. But yes, there were other things that factored into our decision.

-We moved back into a house we already owned.
-We moved back near friends we kept in touch with all the years we were up north, just like we are currently keeping up with friends in New York now that we are down south.
-We are more equidistant from our relatives, both Dan's and mine. That way, no one can get too jealous of anyone else in terms of time with us and the little guy.
-Money-wise, it's smarter to get out of New York for us. We aren't independently wealthy, and we certainly weren't living in a rent-controlled place.
-We love New Orleans, and we are living an adventure down there, certainly.
-We hated having to pay for parking, or having to move the car all the time so that we wouldn't get ticketed on a street sweeping day.

However, we really got to know NYC while we were here. We miss our former congregation in Queens, and all the people we got to know and are still keeping up with. These people care, and I have dedicated this blog in part to them. Once they heard we were moving back to New Orleans, they asked us for the latest news of what was going on. They voiced their concerns when Nagin made his asinine "chocolate city" comments (and, boy, they weren't entirely wrong in their concerns). They gave us their blessings and good wishes on our journey, and I wish I could have taken every one of them with me...or, at the very least, give back even a tenth of what they have given our family.

We miss singing with our Yiddish chorus. We miss exploring downtown Brooklyn, where Dan used to work, and which is currently going through a mini-gentrification in some parts. I miss the museums, and the library system, and being able to find parking pretty easily around 103rd Street and Broadway. I miss the subway, of all things. I miss the graduate level courses I was taking at a Jewish seminary by Columbia. And we all miss our friends we've made here.

It's why, every time we come up now, we aren't just here to see family. We have to take a few extra days and check in with our friends. Our cell phones are stuffed with saved numbers, and if we're missing one, there's always the email addresses to fall back on. These folks have touched our lives. How can we not return the favor?

This is something we are always thankful for, regardless. That kind of thanks needs no holiday.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

On Blogging In My Grandparents' Bedroom for NaBloPoMo
(I Need My Sleep)

(to the tune of Cole Porter's "Let's Misbehave")

It's getting late
and I must wait
for this dang dial-up
to throw my page up

Got to get out
I must not pout
so Grandpa can rest
Guess it's all for the best

All I want is to write
A post tonight
for readin'
Because I volunteered
To do this weird

of those PoMo folks
who need some jokes
on a daily basis
I'm outa blogging aces

Friday, November 24, 2006

I just finished Flags of Our Fathers, which I highly recommend as good history and good reading. I put the book back into my suitcase, which happens to be in my father's room in my grandparents' house. Once I put the book in, I looked up at the wall of the room and found myself face to face with another relic from the same era as the story of Flags.

My grandfather is currently in his eighties, yet he behaves as though he is much younger. He never went overseas to fight, but he spent the war years as a bomber pilot in the Army Air Force. All he got to bomb were targets in the New Mexico desert, since he was sent to a base in Alamogordo to be an instructor. Things must have been fairly routine, even on the one fateful day which is commemorated on the wall above my suitcase - and in my grandpa's wallet.

You see, my grandpa is a member of the Caterpillar Club. He showed us his card a few years back and told us of a day when one of the engines on his plane gave out. He tried to keep the bird in flight, but found he couldn't, and he and his crew had to don parachutes and jump. Back before there was any concept of packing a parachute according to the weight of the person who would be wearing it, my grandpa and his crew landed safely. The framed account of the event hanging on the bedroom wall contains a picture of the wreckage of the B-17. It also contains two certficates attesting to the success of my grandpa's emergency landing, and one letter from Cole of California, manufacturers of the parachute that saved his life:

Your interesting "jump" story was publicly read to all employees of our parachute plant , who are extremely pleased that the product of their labors was instrumental in your safe landing.

I am one extremely pleased granddaughter, I must say. Without that parachute, one of the kindest, sweetest of people in my life would not be here, and his great-grandson (i.e., the little guy) wouldn't get the chance to know him.

Yet another thing to be thankful for on this holiday weekend...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ah, the holidays. 'Tis a time for communing with family, for eating ourselves silly (uh, huh, like we didn't do that last night), and for talking with each other. Occasionally, it is also true confessions time.

Like, for instance, tonight.

Somehow, the conversations came around to alcohol consumption, because my aunt described a recent episode involving my cousin and hard liquor. It then led to analyses of our drinking histories - mine, my aunt's and my mom's. I learned from my mom that my great-grandmother didn't mind having a little of the hard stuff in her later years, but she ended up tying on a few too many at a country club with her former buddies in the nursing profession and she had to call my granddaddy to get her home in one piece. My mother's mother was so mad and so mortified.

Then my aunt went into her teenage years, when a friendly gathering got out of hand while my grandparents were away one summer, giving my grandmother (my father's and my aunt's mother) her hands-over-her-ears-I'm-not-listening-la-la-la-la-laaaaa moment, but then an admission on her part that her generation would really whoop it up with the drinks at various parties and social occasions.

My big confession? That I drank myself silly with my friends and bridesmaids the night before my own wedding.

"So that's why you forgot your marriage license on the wedding day!" my mother said.

"No, I just forgot it. I was real lucky I only lived two blocks away from the synagogue, " I said.

Oh, I have waaay more that I could tell concerning drinking exploits. But I think I'll save those for another family gathering.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

After a long, hard day of traveling and arriving two hours later than we thought we would, it's so nice to be able to relax at our favorite shwarma and Middle Eastern grill restaurant.

Dan and I met our family on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park at the place mentioned above, and we dug right in to all the dishes. The plates of falafel, eggplant salads, homemade pitas, and Moroccan cigars came out for a start, and just as we were taking a breather, Gordy showed up.

The main reason why Dan knows the grill is because of Gordy. Gordy, a former Men's Club president and still-active member, helped get Dan involved in the club at our synagogue in Queens. one fateful night, he introduced Dan to the place, and Dan loved it so much he convinced other Men's Club members to hold regular meetings there. So the owners and staff of the place got to know my husband. Shortly before then, Gordy became a semi-permanent fixture of the place, popping in to help with serving the food so that he could sample the food.

Dan joked about it the first time we brought family members to the grill. He told his parents about Gordy's thing for working there, not really expecting the guy to actually show that night. Dan should have known better that time.

I should have known better this time.

Gordy popped in, we introduced him to our family, and, true to form, he went right to the back of the place to sample some food and to serve it to other customers.

At the beginning of the next onslaught of food, some friends and fellow Queens synagogue members walked in, and by then, the family members must have thought we knew everyone in Rego Park.

The food did us in eventually. My father finally going to the back counter himself and pleading for all to hear:"Can you stop serving the food now? Because you're killing us!"

We said goodbye to what was by then the entire place and rolled ourselves home in our rented Rollovermobile (i.e., a KIA Sorrento).

And this was only our first night back in Nu Yawk...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

So the gravel-filled pothole is still there on our street, developing ruts. Not much progress there.
And in other news...

I seem to be hitting a posting wall. At the same time, I am also hitting a wall in terms of my tolerance for my husband's beefs with my side of our family.

Okay, so I've kvetched and kvelled about his family members. I've rolled my eyes and chided him for sending me and the little guy off to California to visit his parents and telling me to have a nice vacation (yeah, right...). And he's done his share about my family. We're honest with each other and honest about both groups of relatives behaving strangely, badly, or in an annoying manner. We concur on a lot of what we see from our respective sets of parental units, from siblings, and from various aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.

But this is the first time it seems to be really getting to me.

First it was Dan going on about why we can't just go to my parents' in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. It would be nice, and I think my grandparents would go for it just so they wouldn't have to be responsible for getting all the food prepared. The hitch in all of this? My aunt doesn't want to go too far from her place in Manhattan. So we have to be on Long Island for the holiday. Okay, fine, whatever.

So we'll be out of town for almost a week. And because we once lived in Queens, we will be visiting with people we know from our former synagogue and from our former neighborhood. I for one will try to sandwich in some time with a former New Orleans resident and good friend who now lives in Astoria, and with my best mom friend who lives farther out on Long Island. Dan's and my most recent conflict involved where he wanted to eat the night we arrive in Nu Yawk. I misunderstood what he was getting at and called my grandparents and my parents, made arrangements for us to drop our stuff off at my grandparents' house once we get into town, and then head back to Queens Blvd to the restaurant of Dan's choice. I hung up the phone, and the spat ensued.

I had apparently forgotten about rush hour - we are going to arrive at La Guardia airport in the early afternoon. I got annoyed at Dan. How in the heck am I supposed to read his mind? After a short tussle over who was in the right and who in the wrong, I called my grandmother back and arranged to meet her and the rest of the family at the restaurant. Something in me had thought she'd be annoyed by this change of events, and I was a tad on edge. My fears were unfounded - she said it was fine. Dan gave her the address and life is good.

I still feel uneasy, though, because I think that our familiarity with NYC might well get in the way of some of the stuff the family wants to do - and knowing Dan, the weight will be on the side of seeing our friends. I also think I'm starting to get a tad more set in my ways and in the jobs I now have down here. I've already had to reschedule one workday because we will be gone for longer than the average Thanksgiving break. I'm fortunate that I was able to do that, but what will happen if and when I get closer to a full time job?

Yeah, most of these conflicts are probably all in my head. I know my husband does his best to schedule these kinds of trips so that the least amount of damage is done for both of us job-wise, and I think he's trying to get some of this in while the little guy is still young and school isn't an "or else" requirement in terms of perfect attendance (although I think it did shock Dan a little when our son's progress report came out and it said he'd been absent for eight days, the length of time he'd gone to California with me to see grandparents and then returned with a case of conjunctivitis that left him out of school for a few more days). But I still worry about striking the right balance. Family and friends. Relaxation and action.

I thought I'd left this kind of worry behind when we began good-sized family trips with the little guy in tow when he was five months old. I guess, in the end, the worry simply ebbs and flows.

Things will probably be just fine when we get there. Maybe. I hope so.

Hey, at least there will be a lot of food!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shattering Glass Stories

(part of this continuing series)

The head of the glass department at my art school did (and probably still does) large-scale constructions and installations involving sheets of window and plate glass in various sizes. He once told our class that glass was the only material he knew of that, once it broke, a certain weight was suddenly and spectacularly taken away, so much more than with wood or metal. He recalled the inner tension of an otherwise ordinary sheet of plate glass causing it to shatter into small pieces as it was being lifted into position during one of his installation set-ups. There was a major effort to keep the pulley suspending it in midair from recoiling too much from the instant release of all that weight and shattering other sheets of glass in the process.

Shattering glass can indeed be dangerous. A student in the glass department was in the cold working shop, grinding and polishing the sharp edges of a large blown glass sphere. He was using a compressed air hose to blow out of the narrow opening of the sphere some remains of the polishing process, and was not wearing safety glasses while doing so. The explosion brought everyone then on the floor into the cold shop, and there he was, standing amongst broken shards and sporting some imbedded in his face. Many operations restored his face and his eyesight, and he returned to the glass department, eager as ever to keep doing what he loved. And we all had a hard lesson in safety and in common sense.

Well...maybe safety...

A fellow glass student needed to get a large amount of frit, or very small pieces of broken glass, for a fuse-casting project she wanted to do. She obtained a large piece of tempered glass for the frit, and brought it into that same cold shop for her purposes.

Everyone knows about tempered glass - and if not, suffice it to say it is now an everyday thing. The windshields of cars are tempered - that is, they are instantly cooled once they are made from hot glass, thus sealing in tension that is ready to be released, say, when an accident happens or when a good sized rock or log falls on the glass. The released tension causes the glass to explode into tiny pieces that are less likely to hurt the driver and/or passengers involved in an accident.

The student donned her safety glasses, oiled her glass cutter, and proceeded to score the glass just as I was walking past the cold shop. Her cut into the glass caused the explosion she needed to get her frit, and she was laughing somewhat maniacally when I came running in to find out if she was okay.

Finally, a mean trick. I heard about this one through a former teacher of mine. He and a good buddy of his happened to be at a summer glass school just north of Seattle at the same time Vietnam Veterans' Memorial architect, designer, and artist Maya Lin was an artist in residence. The two guys introduced Ms Lin to the Prince Rupert Drop, which is what the whole concept of tempered glass is based on. Hot glass was dripped straight from the furnace into a cold, cold bucket of water and allowed to cool. The drop was carefully pulled from the bucket - carefully pulled, I say, because the drop, when made just right, has a tail on it, and the tail is the key to releasing the tension in the drop.

The guys hit the drop with a hammer to demonstrate the strength of the instantly cooled drop. True to form, the drop didn't even chip. Then one of the guys handed the drop to Lin and asked her to hold on to it, to make a fist around it. "This won't hurt, will it?" she asked.

"Oh, no," they said, just before they snapped the tail of the drop.

My own palms smart at even the thought of this happening. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Mean, mean, mean.

And oh, what Maya Lin must think of glassblowers...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I was so busy yesterday, I forgot to visit Mr Pibbles, that virtual pet on the NaBloPoMo maestra's blog. I got in some virtual hamster exercising and feeding early this morning, so it ought to suffice. Maybe the whole blog posting every day for a month ought to be transmogrified into feeding a virtual pet every day for a month.

Oh, that's right. That's way too easy.

Yesterday, I took the standardized tests towards teaching certification, and it took all morning. I rushed off to show off my vocal capabilities to some of the board members and the rabbi of our synagogue...and I'm now on tap to lead Saturday morning Shabbat services once our current cantor leaves for his new job at another place. Then I went home, napped, and made my way back to the synagogue to rehearse with the synagogue choir and with the folks joining us from Mobile to sing here.

So yesterday was chock-full. I had to keep reminding myself that it certainly wasn't as insane as the weekend I spent working one job after another for nearly twenty-four hours straight. Possibly more on that one in a later post...

What I have fallen into, beginning last night, are a number of things that are once again highlighting what a hardship it can be to try to raise kids down here.

In order of encounters:

- I sat and talked with a friend and fellow choir member who I haven't seen since she was married almost four years ago. We talked about the Praxis tests I had taken, and she asked me how they were, since she is looking at other employment options now that she is laid off from her previous workplace and is basically living off her severance and her husband's income. She discussed with me what it would possibly be like having a kid at this time, and if it would be feasible to be trying to work here and raise an infant.
This is one of the reasons why the decision made at my son's school to go for a full day of teacher development training without child care being offered ticks me off so much. Child care in this city is still in crisis mode and is nearly nonexistent until the kids reach the full day schoolgoing ages, effectively cutting out half of a potential workforce (i.e., parents) that could be helping this city recover. Many extended family members (and potential sitters) that used to call New Orleans home have evacuated the area in large numbers and resettled themselves elsewhere permanently. Add young families who want to raise a family here but are contending with the increased costs of living in this area and it adds up to a big problem.
I had to tell my friend straight out that unless she was going to kick-start a day care of her own, I really didn't see how she could work and care for a new baby at the same time. She protested that her biological clock was ticking, however (she's thirty-one).
On the other hand, she said that her husband's school bills would be coming due very soon, too, so financially it might not be a good thing to have a child now. I wish her luck in whatever she and her husband decide, but this area and this particular time make things more difficult in the childbearing and rearing regard.

-I opened up the morning paper to find this article staring me in the face. Somewhere in the midst of the same section of the paper was this one, too. It's all just awful. It highlights the shortened manpower, the smaller numbers of students, and, most of all, an absolute lack of common sense with regard to these buildings and their upkeep. Read these stories and look at what was left behind. The innocence of a generation was lost in there somewhere, too...

- I went to a Jewish educators' seminar tonight and talked for a bit with a woman who has been teaching in the recovery district as well as in a local synagogue religious school. She had been talking with another woman, who had had to admonish her son that just because they currently live in a FEMA trailer, it doesn't mean that they are white trash.
"Then you need a t-shirt I saw on sale in the Quarter recently," I said. "It says 'Proud to Be Authentic Trailer Trash - Thanks FEMA' "
The comment got everyone giggling, but the woman from the RD told me that some of these kids have clearly been affected by their experiences, which were way more harrowing than having to share a trailer while their homes were being gutted and rebuilt. She herself is teaching kids who had to be evacuated from the area in helicopters. Kids who had had to make their way to empty interstates and sleep on them for, in some cases, several nights over before being evacuated.
The comment that really got me was when she described a parent commenting on her son's behavior: "He hasn't been the same since he was in the water." Presumably, the kid had had to wade his way through floodwaters to some semblance of shelter or safety.

Two steps forward, and one back. We are recovering slowly, but the hurt, the anger, the shock is all just beneath whatever veneer everyone is putting on. And the jury is out on how these kids will live with these experiences, on what they will do with them.

All of us, works in progress...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I took my Praxis Pre-Professional tests today. Not so sure about the math section, but I think I did well on the reading and writing sections. Then again, I've been wrong before. With both my SATs and the GRE, I got higher scores in math than in the verbal sections. But this time, something in me feels way more confident about the reading and writing scores.

"Why is that ?" you might ask.

One word - Blogging.

Four more words - On A Regular Basis.

As I was taking these exams on reading comprehension, on correct grammar and usage, and on writing an essay on a topic given in the test booklet, I could feel the synapses snapping. Connections were made that I don't recall ever having made concerning correct punctuation. Hell, I don't even recall caring too much about correct punctuation before. I guess with all this blogging I've been doing lately, some rewiring has been done in my brain concerning the written word. And I have to say, it feels gooood.

Yes, folks, you too can get higher standardized test scores simply by using your keyboard, mouse, monitor, and internet access to just type something on a blog. It can be your own blog, preferably. It can be responses to the blog posts of others (and for those of you who feel the need to post responses, be good menschen and do not post anonymously). It can be letters to magazines, newspapers, TV shows, and the like. It can be regular emails to Grandpa.

Just go ahead and use the English language, folks. You'll be so glad you did.

For those who are about to blog...I salute you!

Friday, November 17, 2006

To think, all I wanted to buy was one book. Just one. And not even some special artsy-fartsy coffee table glossy extravaganza of a book. It was simply one of those "Best of 2006" writing anthology deals - the "Nonrequired Reading " one edited by Dave Eggers.

I went to one local bookstore where I had seen a copy of it a few days before. I came across the article Michael Lewis wrote for the New York Times on Katrina in the book, and decided to pick up the book when I was more in the mood (since, as I wrote previously, I have sworn off Katrina lit for the time being). The first bookstore didn't have it, so after I did a couple of other things, I went to this store instead and came across the book there.

The trouble with me and any bookstore or library, however, is that I still have to browse, even if I find exactly what I'm looking for. I traipsed around in the shop and spied a photography book by Robert Polidori, entitled Metropolis, and I was captivated. The lighting and some of the juxtapositions of old and new structures in some of the pictures was striking. Partway through looking at the book, I realized I was in the way of an employee's setting up a display of signed copies of Polidori's latest book.

And that is when I got sucked back into grief. And more than a touch of anger. And remembrance.

Polidori's new one, After The Flood, needs to be sent to every politician on the planet. It is an overwhelming book, and not just because of its physical size (nearly 13" x 17" and approx. 11 pounds in weight). Polidori took pictures of everything, it seems. He went into loads of flooded houses armed with nothing but an SLR camera and ISO 32 film. He manually controlled the opening and closing of the camera's shutter, counting in French as he did so. What he captured on film captured my devastation at seeing a ruined Lakeview house my first day back in New Orleans. Except Polidori's camera eye didn't flinch. The book goes on. And on. And on.

I couldn't stop looking. I couldn't stop talking with the bookstore employee about the stuff we'd all been through. I held back tears - a major effort on my part. One of the bookstore owners walked by wanting to get the price on a small folio of Polidori's earlier work, a series of photos the man had made of Chernobyl in the present day. That's when I made it a point to pay for the book I came for and get the hell out of the store.

The employee had told me that Polidori had talked of the difference between photographing Chernobyl and post-levee breach New Orleans: Chernobyl was more of a company town, whereas New Orleans has a soul, one that got seriously hurt through what happened. Polidori's next assignment is supposedly in Beirut or thereabouts. The man is reluctant to go after all he has seen here in this city. He has enough pictures to fill two more books of the same length and size as After The Flood.

If he ever decides to compile those, I will have to avoid them like the plague. As it is, I will probably avoid the Michael Lewis essay for a while, though it is much lighter in tone and is not illustrated in any way in the anthology.

My son already has "FEMA trailer" in his lexicon. I don't need this honking big book of nothing but tragedy and pain sitting where he can take it in, or where I can take it in. It costs too damn much - and I don't just mean monetarily. Most neighborhoods here still look like Polidori's pictures, and people here are paying every day in money and blood for their homes to emerge from the mud, the mold, and the wind damage.

Take my advice. Don't spend the money on this book - unless you buy it from a Gulf Coast independent bookstore and send it to your Congressional representative or Senator. Or to the head of insurance companies such as Allstate.

They are the ones who need to be reminded the most of what has happened and is still happening around here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Damn, it's late.

This is what happens when one of your cats decides to toss up a hairball and then contribute something else from his rear end to the mess - all on your bedcovers. Since it is one chilly night, I am currently waiting for said covers to be fully dried. In the meantime, I am going to keep myself warm by the creative fires fueled by my commitment to post every day this month.

Okay, maybe they're creative embers. Whatever.

Wanna talk creativity? I went to that PTO meeting mentioned in my last post, armed with the two passages in the school's charter that refer directly to half-days of "professional development", the knowledge obtained through the school office that the charter is more or less written in stone until it comes up for renewal in five years, the fact that the only changes that can be made to the charter before that renewal must go through the school's management board and through the state board for approval, and more than a touch of indignation. I ended up with a nice lesson in how the PTO passes the buck, and how the school has created a nice loophole for itself in implementing a plan that leaves working parents with egg on their faces and their kids out of school for one full weekday a month.

Apparently, if you schedule in "banked time"(i.e., extra minutes per school day of instruction, which adds up over an entire school year) to cover professional development stuff and more in the first place, you can justify more professional development through a "calendar change", and your request will have the green light at all levels. PTO board officers passed the real questions and protests parents had on to the management board of the school, which happens to be having a meeting this coming that I can't make.

If I could clone myself, I would. I've got a big test toward teaching certification coming up EARLY Saturday morning, and then my husband and I are rehearsing and then performing with our synagogue choir and members of Mobile, Alabama, synagogue and community choruses that afternoon and evening. I'm hoping that a lawyering single mom and another teaching mom, who have lodged newsgroup protests along with me over this full day of teaching teachers, will be able to help take up the slack, and I've already emailed them about it.

Instead, I will be singing Jewish choral music with people from out of state, some of whom have thought that all New Orleanians have been living off of power by generators and have had to boil our water before using it all this time since Katrina hit. I will be taking a test patterned along the lines of the SAT and the GRE named the Praxis, and I will be hoping like hell the whole time I'm taking it that it doesn't explode on me like the Klingon-controlled planet of the same name in Star Trek VI.

Never a dull moment, y'all. Keep me in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm at Day 15 of this NaBloPoMo deal, and there just ain't no turning back. I am starting the countdown to my family's trip up to Nu Yawk to see the grandparents, the great-grandparents, the aunts and cousins, and my brother and parents. One week before I must begin hijacking other people's computers to aid me in my posting every day cause. Wish me luck...

Know what's been here a tad longer than my posting every day? This gravel-filled pothole in front of my neighbors' house. For those who are gambling types and who read my 10-27 post about this crater, opened up in the street by our own Sewerage and Water Board to solve the water pressure problems my neighbor was having, I never did set up that betting pool, but I can tell you right now that we are nearly two-thirds of the way through a month's time and all that's happened is that the gravel mound that is currently plugging the hole is shrinking a little in size every day.

Mark my words, it won't get fixed until it rips the suspension out of some politician's vehicle while he/she is zooming down our street to get to the Wal-Mart (yeah, right).

I'd get on the horn about it, except for the fact that tonight is D-Day. My son's school's PTO meeting is tonight after a pizza dinner (the PTO gets that much at least: if you feed them for a low price, they will come), and hopefully, the question of a full teacher in-service day once a month, instead of the half-day the school has been doing thus far, will come up. And I will be one of those speaking against it.

First off, the notification of parents about this decision, at least for me and for some other moms I have spoken with, was not good at all. The only way I found out about it was through the PTO newsgroup, when one mom posted about the full day. Next, the fact that, on a weekday, there will be no child care provided. I know of at least one mom who teaches at the school and has a young 'un attending class. What the heck is she gonna do?

Finally, there is the question of how effective a full day of instruction for the teachers is really going to be. I'm all for having teachers stay up to date on the latest stuff and hopefully bring it back to the classroom and help kids with learning, but in this case, it could have been handled a little better. What I really need to do is to see what the school charter says about these days.

Watch out, world! I'm a mom on a mission.


Ooh, just took a look at the charter. It says only that once a month, students will be released three hours early for a professional development day. The problem is, I don't think the charter's been updated in a while - the last date is December 2005. And I'm having trouble finding on the charter the procedures for changing the charter.

Too bad that, as far as things like this go, it's not signed in blood or something.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stumbled out of bed, realized I was late, got dressed, padded into my son's room and woke him up. The little guy whined about going to school. He wanted to stay home. I have seen him in these moods many times before, and it is like riding out a small storm. Stay the course, be patient, fend off any sneaky gusts or waves of self-pity, and things will be just fine.

We are about to head down the stairs. A new whiny fit begins at having to head to the car, when I pull out my secret weapon for my son's blue funk - the Godfather of Soul!

"C'mon, little man," I say. "We've got the James Brown tape in the car."

The whines subside. Self-pity falls away. And soon we are in a mad dash for the car, because my son cannot fathom being in the car now without hearing James Brown's 20 Greatest Hits. We were still a tad late for school, but if it weren't for "I Got The Feeling" and "Mother Popcorn", we'd have been much later.

Excuse me while I jump back and wanna kiss myself...


I must say that the little guy is getting much more interested in music these days. He likes hearing John Mayer's "Waiting On The World To Change", the Jack Johnson "Curious George" soundtrack, the CD my husband and I sang on when we were members of the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus , the "Cars" soundtrack, the double album of Chuck Berry hits I have, Fats Domino, some Bobby Lounge, most jazz music...the list just keeps on growing. He also loves to come to band rehearsals and performances involving my husband, who plays the clarinet and the bass clarinet. And of course he loves to bang on our various pots and pans in time to what ever music he hears, whether we are playing some or not.

It is now a constant refrain in our house when Daddy has to head off to perform or practice: "Mommy, I want to go see Daddy play the clarinet."

Our constant joke is that with all the music the kid has been exposed to in his little life thus far, he'll grow to be a tone-deaf jock.

At this point, if he does go that way, he'll have to will himself into tone-deafness, because he sings on key very well, if I do say so myself, and he can get a song down after only a couple of times hearing it - the melody, that is. The lyrics are a different matter. His very first lyrical twist appeared to us when he was dancing in circles at two years of age, singing, "Max and Rosie, Max and Rosie..." over and over again. Dan and I wondered if we had given birth to a little yenta who had already made a match between two kids in his preschool, until the little guy finally did an "All fall DOWN!" and plopped on the floor with a big grin.

Once the kid tries to sneak into some local clubs around these parts, the whole lyrics thing will either get better or worse depending on which bands he likes to take in the most (hell, some adults still struggle with the lyrics of many popular tunes and such) . Until then he will just have to settle for the places where Daddy performs with the band, with the few clubs we can actually take kids to around here, and with recorded music.

Rough life, huh?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Emmylou Harris once said on "A Prairie Home Companion" that she wrote to Pete Seeger when she was much younger, telling him she didn't feel she could be a folksinger because she hadn't suffered enough.

Seeger's one word response was, "Wait."

Some days I feel that way concerning writing. It seems some times that the best stories concern tragedy, tragic irony, or some form of dire circumstances. Which is nice when I come across things like Monique Pilie's story and cause, because it merges her desire to hike the Appalachian Trail (which she's already done - woohoo!) with her need to help this city replant roots - literal tree roots, that is.

It also highlights, to me, the ways in which New Orleans and the Gulf Coast's situation now echoes Jewish history a little. Evacuees who have been forced to relocate are a "diaspora" from this area. And now, just like in Israel, people can, through Pilie's site, plant a tree in the New Orleans area in honor of or in memory of someone. Or, you can just plant it to help a city recover.

To give everyone an idea, New Orleans' City Park is BIG. Two of NYC's Central Park fit easily into the City Park area. Now picture nearly that entire area underwater for nearly two months due to levee breaches giving way to the storm surges of Katrina and Rita. Then couple that with the major layoffs of City Park employees and caretakers. What it all adds up to: nearly 80% of the trees in the park are dead or dying. And there's nearly no one to help remedy this situation.

And this is just ONE SECTION of the city.

So, folks, I'm urging you to help plant a tree - not just in City Park, but ALL OVER New Orleans.

A jokey greeting card I once got for a birthday told me that a tree had been planted in Israel in my honor...and my day to water it was Thursday. While you're at it, make some plans to actually come on down, help plant the tree, and visit it once in a while. You will have an entire city population thanking you profusely for doing so.

Y'all come back, now...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Over dinner with our friend Edie last night, Dan was kvetching a little about his cough he's had for a few weeks now, since he got sick from our son one fateful weekend. He has developed quite the hack, and I have to keep chiding him for practicing his cough.

He then said that Katrina must have brought something in, and we joked a little about "Katrina cough" having taken hold of him since he wasn't in the area when the storm hit (heck, we've only been back in New Orleans since February - after four years in Nu Yawk). Seriously, though, he said, "It seems to act up whenever I'm driving back from Baton Rouge. I reach LaPlace and then I start coughing again."

Which begged a little speculation on the prospect of something in the air affecting our bronchials. "Maybe it's all the house renovations and demolition going on. People around here are doing mold remediation like crazy." I said.

"I know one thing - I'm doing so much better now that I've retired and I'm not working in that school where I used to be, " Edie said.

"Your school was right in an area smack between two major levee breaches," I said. "There may well be all kinds of things getting kicked up over there. Retiring now must have been the best thing for you to do for yourself, mentally and physically."

And we raised our glasses to that one. Also in the hope that Dan's cough goes away. Very soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Overheard yesterday on the radio, a short sequence of songs:

-Some countrified, sassy, Tammy Wynette-ish vocalist singing about how she's too big and feisty for her "cotton patch" of a town.
- "I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me " - Jim Ford. Till the cows come home.
- "Rock & Roll" - Jerry Lee Lewis. I now date my life as BKL and AKL: before hearing the Killer doing Led Zeppelin and now after.
-"Southern Gul" - Erykah Badu. Enough said.
-"Ball & Chain" - Big Mama Thornton, doing it live in 1970 after a short explanation of how Janis Joplin learned the song from the maestra, Big Mama herself. Damn, its good.

Sometimes I just love WWOZ.

Tried to listen to some more of the radio after I got my son in the car from school - especially since I caught what I know was a smidgen of Bettye LaVette. My son, however, has become a James Brown snob when in the car, which, I'll admit, is mostly my fault from playing the 20 greatest hits album a lot. Right on, people. Super baaaaad.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Local school move, almost designed to flip the bird at all working parents: the decision to make one full day each month a teacher in-service day, and to offer no child care in the bargain. Before this decision was made, one day a month was a half-day for teacher in-service, and child care was offered for the rest of that day.

Since this was announced, many working moms, while applauding the dedication inherent in the decision to devote more time to teacher training, have done a collective "Oh. My. God." Then the suggestions came, fast and furious, on the school listserve/newsgroup. Hold it on a different day, closer to the beginning of the weekend. Do two half-days a month so that child care can be offered on both days. One suggestion was that the moms switch off on leading an in-service "camp" situation, organized by the parents for that one full in-service day a month. One single working mom's response to that:

I wish I could volunteer to do some "camp days" but frankly I'm so overwhelmed and exhausted at this point trying to rebuild my house, deal with SBA, FEMA, LRA and still get ready for a very big trial that happens to be the first week of December (great time for no childcare!) that I just don't have the ability to take it on and organize it.

First parents have to deal with the general state of New Orleans and their homes. Then their jobs. Then the raising and education of their kids.

Oh, the insanity continues in these parts. Maybe worrying over finding child care on a full in-service day is more of a return to normalcy than anyone would ever have thought. But there's always, still, some ways to go on the recovery mill. I hope this all gets cleared up soon.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Glassworking People I Have Known

(to see the one that started it all, click here)

A memory, triggered by having seen her face many times, and yet not at all. The most recent time was yesterday. On driving my son home from school, I spied her on Magazine Street, in overalls with a young baby in a pack on her back. I had such the impulse to go around the block once again and make sure it was really her, since it had been too late for me to roll down a window and call to her. My son's impatience to get home and play with his toy construction equipment ruled that out, however, and it left me to speculate, once again, on where she is, whether I really saw her on that local street, and what she's doing.

Okay, so I have some idea. Her last known whereabouts are in New York, as an interactive technology student/instructor and Pedicab driver. The last time I actually saw her was in San Francisco, when I was in the first few months of my engagement to Dan. But it doesn't stop me from glimpsing her in so many different places. Maybe because I recognize something in her that I finally saw in myself only a few years ago - the need to move beyond boundaries in one way or another.

Ava jumped into the glass department my second year of college, and my first year as a glass major. She was one of the people who brought the average age of the entire department up - Ava had to be in her mid-thirties when I had reached twenty. She carried around with her a certain fount of optimism, though her life could certainly be chaotic. She taught beginning glassworkers in her first couple of years as a glass major with a great deal of patience, something she must have brought to her job at a local psychiatric hospital as well. I got the idea that the job was wearing on her some, but she couldn't really give it up because the money was good and the hours allowed her to head to school.

I should have gotten some hints from the way she took up smoking to deal with the stress every time finals came around. From her love for first a motorcycle, then a Volkswagen Westfalia camper van as her primary transportation. From the observation she made once that as artists went, I was an order person attracted to chaos, whereas she was a chaos person attracted to order. Initially, I had seen her as one of the saner people at work and play in the glass department, but her restlessness got the better of her. Her ability to focus, barely there to begin with, went off to someplace else.

Maybe if a real multimedia major existed on campus, Ava would have found a home there. As it was, she barely graduated with a BFA in glass, and I couldn't help thinking what a waste it was that she didn't put more into it than she had. She had had such great ideas concerning glass as a medium when her heart was into it, but her heart had been led astray. What I was really tsk-ing at, though, was what her story seems to be telling me now.

She was leading the life that, in some ways, I wished I had had the courage to lead. She was following her bliss, and it didn't involve drugs in any way (with the exception of the nicotine at finals time), just a pursuit of ideas. I didn't have admiration for her general blurriness with regards to her ideas and their development, but I did have a faint wish that with my ability to focus on things and a good dose of her disregard for certain boundaries, the sky would be the limit. I was on track at the time for my degree and for graduate school, and, in all probability, a career teaching art at the university level. What my window on Ava's life planted in me was a seed that had the potential to blow that seemingly set plan out of the water. And at the time, that scared me some.

Eventually, however, that seed began to sprout. And now my life is very different than what I thought it would be. Once in a long while, I see Ava in a restaurant, on a street corner, at a museum... and I want to share that with her, and see what direction her life has taken. And I want to drink in her optimism and savor it like I never did.

I never did truly appreciate her smile and her outlook until it was out of my life for over a decade. As I embark on some adventures teaching young children, I find I need that outlook more than ever. But when I least expect it, and possibly when I most need it, Ava will be close by. Of that I can be sure.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Okay, so I guess my husband's birthday isn't quite over yet, because here I am blogging about him. Again.

Dan simply has these moments when he wants to cover all his bases, make things right again. Just do the right thing. It's taken us on some adventurous detours.

Our honeymoon, five-plus years ago. After observing Dan's obsessing over how we were going to see all of Europe in a month, and yet dwelling the most on locales in Spain and Portugal, I finally told him to just chuck the rest of Europe and plan the trip around those two countries. And with that, he researched countless guidebooks, got the maps, made the online reservations and the itinerary (all of which he excels at, so much better than I do), and we flew off to London, then Toulouse. We rented a car in Toulouse and took a hop, skip, and a jump over the border into Spain.

After a stop at the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, we made our way to the resort town of Pineda de Mar, a short train trip away from Barcelona. For the next few days, we took the train into the city and walked down La Rambla, took in Antoni Gaudi's mind-blowing Modernisme architecture masterpieces, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

But on that first day, all we wanted to do was to check into our hotel. So we parked our teeny rental car, pulled out our stuff, dropped it off at our room, and came back to the car only to find that we had been ticketed. Turns out there was a big municipal meter that was sitting on the sidewalk only a little ways up from where we parked, and we not only didn't see it, we didn't feed the meter for the time that we had parked there.

Now, keep in mind: the fine for our faux pas was miniscule by American standards. It was the equivalent of two bucks. I don't know exactly what it was - maybe the first flush of a new marriage, the need to do right by a foreign country, or just Dan - but suddenly, inbetween all of the other things we had on our itinerary, we had to pay this ticket somehow.

So, every day we stayed in Pineda, at some point in each day, Dan had to be on the trail of settling this ticket. He was armed with only the ticket, his better-than-average elementary Spanish, and my company. We managed to shoe-horn this quest inbetween Gaudi-viewings, a visit to the Miro museum, and checking out the area's preparations for the festival of San Juan.
It also took us into a small glimpse of the law and its enforcers a la Espana.

Our quest took us first to the local Guardia Civil house, which was situated on the beach in Pineda. I read later on in James Michener's Iberia that the Guardia Civil had been an official branch of Franco's enforcers in the days before the restoration of the monarchy. What we saw, however, was the equivalent of a National Guard troop as uniformed beach bums. They directed my husband to the local police station to help with the ticket. And so we had to pursue its payment another day.

That next day we stopped off at the local station, which was much more formal and together than the Guardia Civil beach bunker had been. Through a lengthy conversation in Spanish, my husband finally got the story. Payment of the fine was achieved through the muni-meter itself. Seems a teeny slot at the bottom of the machine was where the ticketed person inserted the ticket, the money for the fine, and, presumably, a mea culpa, and all was forgiven.

Dan and I went back to the machine. We examined the bottom slot, which was large enough for only bills, not coins, to pass through. So we couldn't pay it with our coin pesetas at all. Sigh.

We went to a local restaurant that night to take in a traditional meal commemorating the beginning of the San Juan celebrations. A woman on the train back from Barcelona we had been on earlier in the day had pointed out all the people fishing in the sea from shore and told us they would be fishing all night for the feast of San Juan. Dan and I left them to it after the meal and went back to our room.

The next morning, we drove off down the road to Valencia. We had a candied cake in the backseat, a traditional festival food that we were noshing on as we drove. Before we left, Dan handed me the ticket and two American dollars to stuff in the muni-meter slot. They barely managed to fit.

Mea Culpa, Pineda de Mar. We hope all is forgiven.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

First off, though I told him early this morning at dawn's crack,


My husband is another year older today, and later on, we will be going out for dinner at an undisclosed (to him) locale. This morning I gave him Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album, because we saw him performing with his Band of Butterflies on Austin City Limits this past weekend when we were flipping through the channels for something to watch, and we just couldn't pass up watching a guy who'd outfit all the members of his band with big butterfly wings on their backs. Couple that with my husband's Midwestern ancestry (by way of California, where he was born and raised), his being a University of Illinois alum, and the fact that Stevens does a song on his album about Pulaski Day, and voila! Birthday gift for my love and my life partner.

He can take in Sufjan Stevens occasionally when he carpools off to Baton Rouge and back for work, since he's the one with a CD player in his car (my husband, that is). Enjoy, honey.

How else did I commemorate my husband's birth? I dropped our son off at school, I went on in to vote "Dollar Bill" Jefferson out of office and to amend the city charter to put one assessor in office to attend to property values down here instead of seven assessors (I kid you not. Who says political patronage is a thing of the past? HA. HA. I say.), among other things to vote on locally in the booth, and I helped out at our local library with shelving books and making sure kids and parents were happy campers in the children's section.

These days, every time I vote, I think of my husband, who is one of the few people my age that I have known (including myself) who makes it a point to vote regularly. I think it's one of the reasons why he loves it down here in the first place is because politics is such a spectator sport here in which we really can participate, at least on many local issues. Lately, he hasn't been able to vote in the past few elections because of the idiotic hold that was put on his license ages ago when we moved to New York. Now that it's lifted, he can once again use his index finger in the electronic booths here to exercise his voting rights. Nice birthday gift, huh?

I wish I could give my husband the world on a platter. But I can't.

1) I'm just not making enough money. Period.
2) Where the heck would he put it?
3) Our family and home is all he needs (right? Right?????!!!??!?)

So I'm taking him to this place tonight instead. Best way to his heart sometimes truly IS through his stomach.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Huh. This blogging every day stuff is a different thing for me.

Thus far, I've been seeing my blogging through the eyes of a patient reader of hard copy, which is what I am. I have no problems sitting down and reading a novel, a tome of nonfiction, or some heavy magazine articles at the drop of a hat. In fact, it's one of the things I've rued as a mom - that the time needed to devour such stuff is dwindling. Trying to bring the reading material with me to a playground is truly an exercise in futility, since I try reading a sentence, even a paragraph, only to be interrupted by my son, by his interactions (or, God forbid, altercations) with others at the park, and by having to just keep an eye on every little thing having to do with the environment in which he plays.

And yet, the more I have been checking out the NaBloPoMo randomizer, a device that instantly lets me browse the participants in this "writing every day for a month" exercise, the more I realize what an anomaly I am. The blogs I've been checking out, the few I have been revisiting, and the very few I have left comments on specialize in the short and sweet post, the ADHD write bite. Recap the days news on a personal, local, national, or international level. Throw in a meme when things get writers' block-y.

My absolute personal favorite, and one which is turning into a daily ritual since I first saw it, is the daily care and feeding of a virtual pet. Mr Pibbles is just too cute for me to pass up. And what a way to keep people coming back to your blog to see what's new. Heck of a lot better than reading back on my attempts to teach art and Judaism to young 'uns, maybe. Unless I find a way to make it more interesting as well as short and sweet.

I'm thinking along the lines of the way I converse, I guess. Too bad the computer can't show me through facial expressions whether or not I've grabbed its attention by blogging about my home or something. The closest I can get to that is in the number and content of comments to the blog, which, thus far, have been few and far between. Though I started this whole thing with the idea of letting our out-of-town friends, who otherwise have no clue, get some idea of what life is like down in New Orleans for us, it is developing a life of its own.

And boy am I getting sucked in. As it is, I feel like I've already gone on too long in posting. So I'm off 'til tomorrow, all.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bit of a warm fuzzy today. I think.

I taught my religious school class this morning, laying down the law a little first by assigning seats. I tacked up a big class art project the kids did a few weeks before, and they admired it and eased right into their first lesson. There were a number of other activities scheduled during the day, so we didn't get to everything on the lessons I wanted to do.

Near the end of the school period, I said goodbye and see you tomorrow to one of the kids who attends the school where I teach art during the week. Another kid (one of the reasons why I did assigned seating in the first place; his behavior was much better when I did it) asked the first kid why he was going to see me tomorrow. When he heard I was the art teacher at the kid's school, he said to the kid, "You are so lucky!"

I felt all warm and happy, until I realized I hadn't seen the facial expression of the kid who made what I took as a compliment. He could have been rolling his eyes as he said it or something.

Simply another sign that I need to develop a thick skin.

Hope tomorrow's art classes go well...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I was sitting with my husband and son over dinner at a Japanese place, and I brought up the guy I used to know. I told Dan about the Offbeat article and everything.

Dan asked me, "Was this the birthday boy?"

I told him no, that the way the guy worked, nobody there was that close to him (more about the birthday boy thing later in this post). I then filled Dan in on the Offbeat guy's talent as a glassworker (prodigious), but that he preferred to work alone during the week or with just one other fellow on the weekends. Usually, glassworking is a collaborative endeavor, and the Offbeat guy is one of only two people I've seen who can create amazing glass sculpture or vessels completely by themselves.

"Was this the guy whose wife was jealous of you?" Dan then asked.

"No, that was the girlfriend of somebody else," I said. Then I laughed a little at my realization.

"What?" Dan asked.

"I just realized that most of the people I used to work with were just nuts, and not in the way that I'm nuts."

Dan only smiled, acknowledging the correctness of my assessment.

The other part of my assessment of my past associations, the part I didn't go into in great detail over dinner, is that having met these people, and knowing that they exist, it makes me rethink going back into working with glass. I'll run into them again, I know. And this time around, I may well be less tolerant of them.

Yes, I know, there are people like this in every walk of life. I shouldn't just hermetically seal myself off from something that still tugs at me just because of the people involved, right? I guess so, but I had clues from the very beginning of my glass working days that the number of people working in glass on some professional basis is very small...and that the material itself seems to encourage and flame the eccentric fires (pardon the pun) of the people who work with it. Glassworker Walter Lieberman, and author of Walt's Glass Guide, had it right when he put on the cover of his book, "Glass is a cruel mistress." He should have added the admonition that if you play with fire, you're going to get burned somehow.

Forget what happened to me ...and wrap this one around your head:
An acquaintance of mine described an apartment hunt she embarked on with a former classmate of mine right here in New Orleans. The guy was actually a couple of years older than me, but because the glass department was so small, most everyone there was familiar with his work. He was a great artist and sculptor, and he had a real love for burned wood, for the look and the smell of it. The man had exhibited a common trait among glassworking folks, and I must admit that I am no exception to this: the love of burned wood and the need to work with a fiery material speak loudly of pyromania. Heck, of my graduating class, three of the six of us getting BFAs in glass were fire signs, with birthdates within four days of each other.

The two looked at one apartment in the city that seemed to be just perfect, maybe a little pricey. The people showing the place, the building's owners, were very nice in the bargain, even apologizing immensely when a rug was nudged by someone's toe to reveal a patch of burned wood in the otherwise refinished floor. My former classmate's eyes got big - there was one of his great loves, right there on the floor. "You don't understand," his apartment hunting companion began. "You see, he loves the look of burned wood, the smell..."

And with that, the potential apartment deal was off.

I was a teaching assistant at a summer crafts program the summer after I graduated college, and I was witness to a seasoned artist and craftsman testing out an assessment of the heat of a blast furnace, or glory hole. Shortly before all the glassworking equipment, except for the glass furnaces, was shut down for the night, the artist casually walked into the studio with a twenty-five pound block of wet clay, enclosed in a plastic bag. He opened the doors to the glory hole, chucked in the entire block of clay, plastic and all, and closed the doors. Flames immediately shot out from the hole, then subsided as the plastic burned off the block, and then the clay began to fire in the 2000-plus degree heat, from the outside in to the center of the block. As bits and pieces of heat hardened clay popped out of the glory hole, those who were gathered in the hot shop discussed the debunking of the hyperbolic assessment of a glory hole's heat. I can tell everyone, unequivocally, that a glory hole will not instantly fire a twenty-five pound block of wet clay. And it leaves behind a big mess.

The artist's teaching assistant came in the next morning. "What is this in the hole?" she asked when she was firing up the equipment. Heh, heh.

Oh, and the birthday boy thing? Not much to do with heat, but everything to do with employee-to-employee pranks, and this one was pretty gross. It happened the very day I was cleaning out my stuff from one studio to go to work at another. I walked past the hot shop towards the back of the studio and spied an iced cake sitting on one of the observer's chairs on the viewing floor. A maintenance guy saw me looking at it and told me not to touch it. A coworker had made it for the birthday boy, and after the singing and the candles were over, the one slice missing from the cake was given to the lucky guy. He took a large forkful, put it in his mouth, began to chew, and made a face. Turned out the cake was iced with mayonnaise.

I shook my head, and thought, as I gathered up my stuff and walked out the door, good riddance. To malicious cooking coworkers.

More on other glass crazies I have known - coming very soon.

Oh, and I'm now posting daily due to this NaBloPoMo thing I found out about through another blog I've been lurking at sometimes and commenting at often lately. I figured, what the heck. It is a chance to win some cool stuff, flex some writing muscles, and get my addled brain in gear. Feel free to scroll down and click on the links to past posts if you've missed out on some stuff, because, hopefully, the writing will be fast and furious for the next month. I may have to hijack my husband's work laptop while we are away over Thanksgiving to post. It's all for a good cause, right? Right???!??!!!!!?????

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good teaching is apocalyptic talking.
-Edward Dahlberg, 9-2-64


I never wanted to see myself as some sort of agent of an ersatz Cultural Revolution. Then again, the above quote is one from a "disappointment artist", as author Jonathan Lethem calls Dahlberg. Reading Lethem's essay on Dahlberg, by way of his aunt's experience of Dahlberg as a (non) teacher, I am reminded of one of the teacher stories that went around at my art school. The storied instructor seemed to take such nasty glee in belittling the work of others, going so far as to destroy a student's work to prove a point. It wasn't unusual for him to walk up to work he thought was crap and take a lighter to it as it hung on the wall for critical perusal. Once the initial shock wore off, the students began to vie for whose work could be the worst just to provoke a reaction - since everyone passed the man's courses anyway, why not have some fun?
Let him rip some stuff off the wall and stomp on it; nothing like good entertainment, right?

Then again, I have to wonder if the kindergarten-first grade art group I began teaching last week falls into the category of those students. Or if I'm just green as green can be in the kid discipline department. Well, I know the latter wondering is true. But in a class of ten kids, how do you handle three to four problem ones without shortchanging the rest who are doing well?

First off, I didn't understand the discipline system that was set up at the school where I teach twice a week. The second mistake I made was leaving the classroom door open - for both my older class (second-third graders) and my younger one. The open door was especially detrimental to my authority as teacher (or, as Edie says, as alpha dog), since it unfortunately established to the homeroom teachers of the younger group that things were not as they should be. Major strikes against me in the eyes of these teachers.

I'm starting to get het up as I write this. I feel like such a failure.

The older group likes the marionette project I am giving them, and they are really getting into it, despite some snarky comments from one kid or another. The younger group was doing well with the papier-mache hand puppets we were making, but then I gave then a tracing and coloring project (based on this man's illustration of Robinson the Cat. Check out the gallery of prints on the site for the Robinson book cover.) to do in big sections when they were done with the primary major task at hand (which was, at the time, the puppets), and all hell broke loose. One kid would act up and need to be settled down, then another would start up. It was like trying to put out brush fires with a thimblefull of water and my feet. And I know the art period is the one time when the homeroom teachers can get an hour's break, and I let them down.

I know one kid is really, consistently trouble, but I felt like I there had been a minor breakthrough with him yesterday, because he was all ready to blow off the tracing project, until he looked around at some of what the other kids were doing with theirs and decided to retrace it better than he had done. I let him know I was very proud of him when he retraced it (and did very well), but then he got distracted again and sucked in to his antics a little girl who had been doing her work well before then. Off he went to his homeroom class.

I need to lay down the law somehow and combine it with projects that are interesting enough to hold these kids' interest and what is proving to be a very short attention span, but I worry about stomping on them too much, too. The previous art teacher would give all the kids, older and younger groups, short, easy projects and then let them play on computers, play board games, mess around with stuffed animals, or do puzzles until class was over. Am I wrong in thinking this is art class and that they are there for instruction? Or is an hour really too long?

I can't help but think that they can make it through most of the day in a classroom on a regular basis - why should one more hour be a big problem? Hence, the problem must be me.

Ouch, again.

I want to teach these kids how great art is, especially, in the early stages, the process of it. The older kids are at the dawn of getting it through some of the projects I've been doing with them. I think some of them were definitely ready for a full hour of art. The younger ones probably need more of an indoctrination...the Jonathan Edwards-ish "fire and brimstone" way. Which probably means the equivalent of chaining them to their seats and sitting on them to really finish something - and then letting them go a little.

I really hate certain aspects of this job. But I guess it'll have to be done somehow or else I'll be hounded out on my rear by the teachers of the younger group. And it'll have to be done deftly or else I'll be hounded out by the parents of the younger group. Oh, joy.

And now, the apocalypse...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Coffee Shop Lit

Dropped my son off at school, hopped over to a local coffee place and saw they had my now-favorite free funny paper, and a copy of the latest Offbeat magazine. I sat down with my frozen coffee drink and my toasted everything bagel, and realized that I recognized one of the guys in the band pictured on the Offbeat cover as someone I used to know as a fellow glass rat. I opened up the magazine only to read a nice diatribe from the guy - one that took up a large chunk of the article - about drinking, the barfly culture in New Orleans, and other alcohol-related (and possibly alcohol soaked) musings. I mean diatribe in the best way, and I'm glad he has put his bar-hopping to artistic use.

And then I opened up The New Orleans Levee and laughed my fool head off at this:

I got some looks from other customers, but it was well worth it. Hey, if you can't have the giant sign over your convenience store and gas station in sight of the highway, then go for broke and bid on a stadium sponsorship.

Imagine having a big Wagner's Meat ad such as this on top of the Dome when the next hurricane blows through (hopefully, not in my lifetime, but that's highly unlikely). A big old storm may be able to flood the area and cause major property damage, but it can't beat Wagner's Meat!

The New Orleans Levee is a newcomer to the free paper scene down in these parts, but I think it could really give The Onion a run for its money someday. Peruse the rest of the latest issue and check out the Kim Jong-Il/governor Blanco comparison article.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Some windows onto life right here, right now, courtesy of Ronnie Virgets and Andrei Codrescu.

Take a little time, click on their columns, read 'em, study 'em a little.

The French Quarter murder-suicide weighed on my mind some when I first heard news of it, and not because of its sensationalism - well, not entirely because of its sensationalism. Come on, who can pass up the allure of a couple who got together the day Katrina hit, who squatted at the edge of the Quarter, working all kinds of jobs just to live on that knife edge, who fought like tigers frequently but who couldn't escape each other's fierce orbits - until their deaths? It certainly has made many salivate over the details as fodder for storytelling, fiction or nonfiction, as Poppy Z. Brite can tell you (check out October 19 and October 20 on her online journal), and I hate to say I was one of the many. For a day or two. And every once in a long while.

No, it sat on me a bit because I knew so many girls, especially in art school, who were headed down the path to Quarter Rat-dom. I would see them all over town (and I still do) finding ways to be noticed or unnoticed. To scrape by and show how strong they are in the process. To weave their bodies into the fabric of the city streets - of ANY city streets, really, though New Orleans has been attractive for a long time because of the ease with which one can live here on the cheap and still construct a life of sorts.

I can understand the allure of that life, sure. Sometimes, at my worst moments, that life still retains that greener grass sheen. The impulse to chuck it all and live like a postmodern bohemian. What most don't realize, until they are in the middle of it, is that it can be a hollow sort of life. A life that doesn't heal the one living it so much as it ensures that the wounds and injuries one can get from life will never scab over.

At least, that's the way it was for me.

I tried, for nearly two years, to live a life that seemed to be free of what I felt encumbered me - family expectations, the scorn of coworkers in a previous job, the long-distance clutching of a now ex-boyfriend. It only created new problems, different problems...and ones I am still confronting and working on to this very day.

Addie Hall, ultimately, could have been any one of us, even me. I wish she'd found the place to let her sexual abuse scars heal, because the Quarter certainly wasn't it, in her case. From what I've read, she seemed to be attracted and repulsed by the opposite sex at different times and in some of the best and worst ways. She didn't find her match in her killer, only her end. And she kept on doing this all alone.

It is an unfortunate story with a tragic backdrop in New Orleans at this time. In reality, the location of it has very little to do with this city, or with the general malaise here of people trying to rebuild their lives. The two lived the same way after the storm as they did before it.

But I will look at the girls that hang onto lives in the Quarter with the skin of their teeth a little differently. Any one of them could well be someone's damaged daughter in the guise of a brazen broad. And I hope to God not a one of them falls down the wrong rabbit hole...because, in the end, even the characters in Wonderland had their problems.