Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How I Passed The Time At The In-Laws (part 2)

All right.

Ms Maitri is down in the dumps. Next time I head out to see the in-laws, I'm taking her with me, so that she can study the San Andreas fault (which, incidentally, is not far from where my in-laws live; I'm always telling them it's all their fault...). Since I can't do that right this very second (plus, I just came from there), I'll have to break my self-imposed ban on posting twice in the same day. So here goes...

Frontline's The Storm recounts former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh as having identified three of the most likely disasters facing the US in an effort to help streamline FEMA: "an earthquake in California, a hurricane hitting New Orleans, and a terrorist attack in New York." Two of the three have already happened, with FEMA performing fairly well in NYC and miserably in New Orleans.

We who live here in New Orleans are not taking most of this crud lying down (well, only when we're sleeping, sick, or falling down drunk, but that's another story) as evidenced by the traffic jam at the Army Corps of Engineers' headquarters here today, because this is the last day to file a claim in a class action lawsuit against the A.C. o' E. Though people here are rebuilding their own parcels of property, even jacking up their homes, they are being dropped by their insurance companies like hot potatoes, even though they have faithfully paid their premiums for decades. So that's corporate America AND federal agencies trying to stick it to everyone who just wants to go back home and live in peace. Nice. Who the heck is going to empathize with us, since the media as a whole seems to be blaming the victims?

Try the people who live in the one place that has not been through a massive natural disaster under Dubya. That's right. The nation-state of California.

Let's cheer on Governator Ahnold and Dianne Feinstein for seeing a need "to take a major leadership role in its own destiny" and fund some levee improvements - in California's capital city of Sacramento, where 19 levees in the area are poorly maintained by the A.C. o' E. And don't get me started on the whole earthquake thing in No-Cal, and all o' Cal. These people know that they are at risk, believe me, and in some ways, it's worse than a hurricane heading down the pike, because the Big One there could be happening right this second, or next week, next month, or next year. Who the heck knows? My father-in-law estimates that if he's hearing a certain radio program that broadcasts closer to the fault and they indicate in their broadcast that they've felt something, he's got five minutes or so before he feels the tremor in his own home. Five minutes, y'all. Yeah, that's advance warning for you...

Because these people are living with the proverbial sword of Damocles above their heads, some of them are bound to care about some folks in a little ol' hamlet on the Louisiana coast, and I seem to have met a number of them on this trip. I attended a brunch with my mother-in-law, at which, when I told the other attendees where I was from, one of them immediately took me aside and engaged me in conversation about the situation in my neck of the woods. I ended up telling a number of attendees about the problems, which were not necessarily about global warming, as one of them thought - it's the coastal erosion and the politics, people. I emphasized the need to be prepared for anything that comes your way, that it doesn't matter if people think you are paranoid or scared of the world - recent events have shown that we all have good reason to be, to a point. Shoot, I even told these people about Helen Hill, and about how the justice system down here is seriously messed.

On the flight to Dallas, a fellow in the seat next to me engaged me in conversation and noticed my t-shirt, which is waaay better than "Make Levees Not War", in my opinion. I laid out the same ol' same ol' for him, we talked about the Saints' season (he said he and his friends in Cali were rooting for 'em, and considering Sean Payton's birthplace, that ain't all that surprising) and about Barkus and potbellied pigs. I even passed on some NOLA blog URLs to the guy. I get the feeling he, and some of the other folks I've talked to, will at least take a peek.

I didn't mind explaining myself to these folks, maybe because I don't feel as traumatized any more (thanks, Saintseester - there is some power in being sad, but not world-on-your-shoulders sad). I also felt like these were people who were really listening to what I had to say, and not just asking about New Orleans to be polite, or to simply confirm what they already thought. Yeah, I could be wrong about that assessment, but I also know that if I don't speak up, I'm not sure who the hell will. The government is doing its best to cover its rear. Insurance companies want to wash their hands and incubate themselves. Organizations that once convinced us all that they could hold back nature have been caught without any clothes on. And yet, there are a number of people here who are here because they want to be. Because it is home. Because no place else is quite the same. Because you don't take lightly a decision to just walk away from a life fully lived.

It's tiring, yes. Maybe I just need to burn all the reasons for me and others here to stay onto small calling card CD-ROMs and pass 'em out when people ask. I know, however, that I'm not alone, that there is a certain amount of security I've found since I've found all the NOLAns who are blogging about their experiences, their takes on the news, their number-crunching, their bullshit detecting. That's power, y'all, and that is not to be underestimated. Use it wisely and well.

Maitri, I'll take you to Los Trancos Preserve sometime, where the beauty and the potential earthquake energy of a part of the fault area can be fully explored. I'm glad I've returned to New Orleans all the same, however, because it is home. Living here is truly presenting one big middle finger to the forces that would see this place die. And I'm getting sick of despairing...
How I Passed The Time At The In-Laws (part 1)

Aside from the aforementioned visit to the Tech (see the last post), my son and I ended up in San Jose for a week, which threw me for a loop, and had the little guy convinced that we were going to stay with grandma and grandpa "for a hundred days". Thankfully, that did not come to pass, as we returned to New Orleans yesterday, despite missing our 6:20 AM flight (my father-in-law didn't want to wake his darling sleeping grandson - let's just leave it at that. Mull that one over, everybody...).

My mother-in-law kvetched to me a little about her current reading material, a book club selection by Amos Oz. She just couldn't get into it at all, and I could sympathize, because I slogged through one book by that man and swore I'd never attempt another of his books. I'd describe his prose as "detailed detachment", and that's being nice... in truth, the damn book bored me to tears. She then told me that at least two ladies in her book club were snobby about the books that were chosen - they would pick these books like the Oz selection, and then put down the people like my MIL who just couldn't get into them. Thankfully, there are waaay more women in the group who are not like that, but the whole thing only put into focus a few reasons why I never got into a book club of any sort.

a) our very first book clubs are schools, and if you know what schools are like, or if you can remember back to your own time in the clique-ish clink, you know that schools can very easily kill a good book with overanalysis and overuse of homework concerning the book ( like one mom I spoke to recently said of a teacher who pretty much destroyed To Kill A Mockingbird for her daughter), or they can kill anyone's desire to read, period. Try to get any average guy to read Pride and Prejudice, for instance, and you'll have better luck dragging said guy in for a prostate exam and simultaneous root canal.
b) I trust my own tastes with regards to what I want to read, even when I went berserk as a teenager and read the high school equivalent of Harlequin romances and the Sweet Valley High series for a year or two. I really don't need to have my reading material validated in a book club setting. Really, I don't. Because I believe, in the end, that any avid reader will use his/her brain and heart after decades of putting the printed word in front of his/her face and pick whatever the hell he/she wants to read without worrying about what other people think. When anyone starts to worry about that kind of stuff, reading for pleasure is an abstraction. A book club at that point is simply adding literary veneer to a coffee klatch.

So, after some thought, I put down a short list of my most recently read books for the MIL. Off the top of my head, here's some of them:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

The Disappointment Artist,
As She Climbed Across The Table - Jonathan Lethem

Tough Jews,
The Avengers,
Sweet and Low - Rich Cohen

Side Effects,
Secondhand Smoke,
Odds - Patty Friedmann

Blue Monday - Rick Coleman

Yes We Have No,
The Heart of the World - Nik Cohn

Mister Jelly Roll - Alan Lomax

Be Sweet - Roy Blount Jr.

Breach of Faith - Jed Horne

Notes on some of the selections: I haven't finished Breach of Faith yet, but if it's anything like Horne's Desire Street, it may well end up being one of my top choices of all of the books about Katrina that have come out. I've just finished Cohen's Sweet and Low, and it is a memoir that ought to be a lesson to families everywhere: watch how you act when you get high and mighty, because you never know when a darned good writer in the family is going to wield his pen against you. In other words, great guilty pleasure read. Finally, since I'm a t-shirt nut, Roy Blount's memoir has what has to be my all-time favorite incorrect English usage t-shirt slogan in it, but you'll have to read the book to find out what it is. The rest of it is darned good, too, and funny as hell, especially Blount's analysis of any and all Juniors out there in the world.

Part 2 of Time Spent At the In-Laws is coming soon. Hint: it involves this.

Oh, and for more book mania, head over here. Heh heh.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm stuck, y'all, and the airlines stuck me.

This is the third time they've cancelled a flight on me, damn it. And yes, it was because of bad weather in Dallas, where I was supposed to be on a connecting flight in the afternoon yesterday, but they couldn't get me on a flight back to Jackson until Tuesday. So I ended up with my in-laws, once again. Had to call up the religious school where I teach on Sundays and the elementary school where I teach art to let 'em know I wouldn't be making an appearance, and then my son and I were whisked off to an IHOP and then to San Jose's Tech Museum.

First off, the Tech is super cool. And we didn't even make it through the whole place. Fear and trepidation on my mother-in-law's part that the place would be "too old" for the little guy proved unfounded. The kid was rocking every hands-on display on the second floor of the place, designing his own rollercoasters, seeing what rendered objects such as a space shuttle would look like with frog skin, and checking out some shadow displays.

Why were we only on the second floor, you ask? Because the IMax theater in the place spits everyone out of the theater onto the second floor of the Tech after each movie. What did we see? God help me, we saw Hurricane On The Bayou.

First off, I know we saw it largely because my father-in-law was curious about it. I figured, okay, I can make it through this. I might end up hating the thing, but I just need to see it as research...riiiiight...research...see what people across America will be seeing when they pays their money and takes their chances. Plus, he paid for it. What the hey.

Surprisingly, it lays out the environmental issues very well, in the guise of young fiddler Amanda Shaw researching the coastal erosion problem for a school project. I applaud this film for that. Three months into what was supposed to be a fairly straight educational film promoting wetlands restoration, Katrina hit, and, serendipitously, the cameras of MacGillivray Freeman were there to film scenes of water in New Orleans' streets, of Tad Gormley Stadium as a lake with stands poking in and around it, and of Buras, Louisiana, after the storm.

Maybe I'm being a pessimist, but I think the whole thing ended on too much of a happy note for me. A NOLA radio show host once said around a long-ago JazzFest time that it seemed like all the world's problems could be solved at the Gospel Tent at the Fest, and (quasi-spoiler here, folks - sorry) much as I would love for Marva Wright to sing our way out of this mess, it just ain't that easy. Hell, Ms Wright herself hasn't gotten back to her rebuilt home until fairly recently. There was too much of a neat little package of coastal erosion's devastating effects in Hurricane, and the bow to tie it all together and reverse the trend is supplied by the music and culture of south Louisiana, according to the filmmakers.

Uh-huh. I wish. I hope so. I'm not so sure, sometimes.

What I regret most of all was bringing my son in to see that movie. He enjoyed seeing the early scenes of alligators underwater, and, on seeing the aerial shots of New Orleans, he exclaimed, "Mom! It's the Superdome!" But then, they re-created some of the in-storm effects digitally - the collapse of Buras' water tower, storm winds peeling off pieces of the Dome's roof - and showed some of the immediate aftermath, and my son clutched his popcorn, aghast.

"Mom, is New Orleans okay? Is New Orleans all right?" he asked me.

I had to do it. I had to tell a four-year-old the straight truth in a way that he could understand.

"Some of it is," I told him, after a long pause. "Some of it is."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

If you wrote me off, I'd understand it
'Cause I've been on some other planet
So come pick me up, I've landed.
-Ben Folds

Because the little guy has school off for the rest of this week, and the in-laws have been clamoring to see the kid for a while now, I had to leave on Mardi Gras day for San Jose. So here I am, ambassador and escort to the main attraction. I know my duties and must carry them out. Ho-hum.

Yesterday morn, I was on another planet. I walked my dog early in the morning on planet NOLA, then went to the parade route out of curiosity just in time to see Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club go by - I even managed to catch some beads and doubloons from them for Dan, the clarinet man, before Gilda got a little freaked by all the hubbub and we had to head home. I cooked up a mess of pancakes for our friends who came to see Zulu, hung out on my porch with the little guy in the sunny weather, and tossed beads down to passersby while my stereo blasted some Sharon Jones out on the street.

Then, at 11:30, we hopped in the car and schlepped all the way to Jackson, Mississippi, to take a plane out to San Jose from there (my husband is heavily into travel bargains, and this one was a bargain...). They loved my t-shirt at security (I almost wore this one, but then my in-laws would not have been amused...), but I really wasn't in the mood to explain how I got into soul music in the first place. Our flight left at four for Dallas, we took the little train they have at their humongous airport to change gates and planes, and I endured a four-hour flight to NoCal with a tired little guy who just could not get comfortable enough in his seat to save his life and get some rest.

Anyway, we're here. My son is coughing and chattering away in his bed, and soon a new day in another part of America will begin. Ho-hum...

Oh, and I turned on some Mr Rogers this morning for the little guy, and who is one of the neighbors? Wynton Marsalis. Sigh...

Monday, February 19, 2007

So I met a nice Jewish boy yesterday.

Although he was quite soused to the gills (as was I), I could tell right off. I asked him where he was from, and he told me Ohio. His buddies, thinking to embarrass him, yelled for him to speak Hebrew. In my inebriated state, I yelled "Mee zeh (who's that)?" He yelled, "Anee rowtzeh le beit-sheemoosh (I need to go to the bathroom)!" in his state. I pointed behind him and tried to yell that it was over his shoulder, "Le beit-sheemoosh..."

"Yeah, I know!" he yelled back, grinning.

It was right then that someone threw me a HUGE set of apple-shaped beads. By then the guy had moved on. Oh, well...


Dan, the little guy, and I spent a lot of time yesterday at the beginning of the Krewe of Thoth's parade route, at our friend Pacrac's house party he throws every year at the very beginning of the parade...even last year, when Thoth was forced to parade on the same route as all the other parades during Mardi Gras time. Pac makes a massive bowl of brandy milk punch, he makes sure everybody brings some good food to nosh on, and we send off the parade among good friends, old ones and new ones.

After we got LOADS of beads, in a huge bag that is still in the trunk of our car, we hung out for longer than we've ever hung out at Pac's house before (which we paid for later - the traffic trying to get to our side of the parade route was a nasty snarl. That we managed to get home AND find a parking spot fairly close to our house just before the big-time Bacchus parade rolled is nothing short of miraculous). Somehow, I got embroiled in a discussion with one of Pac's Catholic buds about the difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewry (not jewelry, y'all), the little guy was running in and out of the house with bunches of kids, when he wasn't inhaling chocolate chip cookies and potato chips, and Dan was off someplace else in the house, resisting the urge to give our son some of the milk punch.

After we got home, we found that my housemate's boyfriend and a buddy of his had set up a drum set in our front yard and were manning a brand-new grill next to our front porch (not at the same time, though that would have been something to see). There was also a good-sized amp nearby, and the boyfriend laid down a beat while his friend played some mean harmonica. Suddenly we had a small blues concert going, and passersby danced on the sidewalk and in the streets. I let the little guy hang out and watch and listen for a bit, since he was curious and he loves the drums. I had to be mom and yank him inside, however, because he started to try to bang on a cymbal with one of his plastic buckets - plus, he tried to hog the harmonica player's mike. My son then threw such a conniption fit when we got in the house. The kid is such the ham...

I kind of got roped in to sing with Dan's klezmer trio at the last minute, so we ended up the night serenading our neighbors on their back porch with many Jewish hits as they munched on their boiled crawfish, potatoes, and corn. I was up there next to Dan and his clarinet belting out "Tzena", "Hava Nagila", "Sisu Et Yerushalayim", and a number of other great klezmer tunes, all while trying to head off our overtired son from trying to enter our neighbors' empty house so that he could play with their little girls' toys. After our short performance, the little guy had to go home because he was throwing the biggest fit of them all, right there in the backyard.

By then, I was too pooped to go back to the neighbors' party, much less to go out and watch Bacchus pass by, so I missed this spectacle on the parade route. Somehow, Dan already got hold of some James Gandolfini Bacchus doubloons from the Thoth parade (don't ask me how), so he didn't want to head back out there, either. We pooped out to the sounds of the housemates' drums, harmonica, and now guitar, playing some blues beneath our place...


I keep thinking about that Jewish guy I met yesterday morning. If he's single, I can just imagine what his profile on JDate would look like:

Man, aged 39, seeking woman, aged 18-25. Must be willing to travel every year to the mouth of the Mississippi around February-March in order to cheer me on as I wear a satin suit, a mask over my face, and a menorah-shaped hat on my head. Catch me as I go by on that fateful Sunday morning! I'll be throwing you something special, like a real man should...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The post that inspired me:

My response to the gray lady

The article that really got me going:

NY Times 2-16

My letter to them:

In reference to your recent article on fed-up New Orleanians leaving the city for good, you focused heavily on the negatives of staying here. And I do admit, there are a lot of negatives. My husband and I, along with our young son, chose to return to New Orleans six months after the storm hit, and four years after we moved away due to a job opportunity in NYC. Though my husband's current job is in Baton Rouge, we chose to move back into an apartment in our house here rather than renting it out completely to other tenants, because we love this city and do not want to see it die.

Leaving here is a highly emotional decision that is not made lightly, and there are many factors that enter into that decision. Escalating crime and an absence of leadership in the recovery process at local, state, and federal levels are two mighty large obstacles for this area to overcome, but for every person that picks up and leaves, there are others like my husband and I who will stay.

Perhaps we are foolish. Some would call us crazy. All I know is that, when my husband and I were still living in Queens and the hurricane hit the greater New Orleans area, we felt as though holes had been cut into our hearts. The dismal responses to this still-hurting city's trials made us want to run to its aid. I consider us lucky that we are able to do so in body as well as in spirit.

The NY Times response to me:

Thank you for writing. I really considered the article more about the failures of leadership in the city than any failure on the part of its residents.. My story was about people leaving so it did focus on the negatives. But we have also written about people coming back and everything in between. The New York Times has been very dedicated to this story in its many, many facets.

Uh-huh. Oooo-kay.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Woo-hoo! Now I really have a reason to celebrate!

As of the early hours of this past morning, the infamous pothole from hell has been paved. There is a lovely blacktopped, slightly domed patch where a partially filled hole used to be. Let's see - how long did it take for this miracle to occur? - approximately 113 days. I could kvetch about the fact that it is not even scored like all the other patches on our gray brick road are to "blend in" with all the bricks. I could become seriously farklempt over the fact that a narrow trench down the street was repaired with gray bricks while the PFH had asphalt unceremoniously poured into its depths. Hey, I'm just glad it's gone.

For those of you NOLA bloggers out there who were told to look for us by the PFH when we weren't watching the parades, just look for a big black spot in half the road instead. Our house and the toilets and beer within are still nearby.

And, to the fellow who clumsily skywrote a big ol' TRUST JESUS in the blue yonder this afternoon, I say give us a break. We've been trying looking to someone who is not there for leadership in this town and it just hasn't worked....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I stood and sat out at our spot tonight for two parades. The little guy got cold and cranky, as it was pretty chilly out and we were out there all the way up to his bedtime. So, sad to say, I missed the Muses parade.

Dan went in my stead, and came home with, among other stuff, a coozie sporting the emblem of a new group - the Krewe of the Rolling Elvi (not Elvises, as in Honeymoon in Vegas, but Elvi).

Best. Throw. Ever.

And I didn't get it with my own grubby lil' hands. Crud.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I was all set to post a missive concerning the tornadoes that have passed through this area, treating the occurrence with much sensitivity and gravitas, noting only slightly humorously the coincidental news item at the top of the front page of the city's paper that proclaims that "LSU Plans Psychiatric Hospital Uptown"(and, man, are we ever gonna need it), and reassuring those who know us that our selves and ours are just fine. I looked at the Times-Picayune's website to see what I could use for such a stirring, serious post, and then I saw this lovely multimedia presentation and my plans were gone with the wind.

I watched the thing absentmindedly and then gasped when I saw the picture at 2:54 (when the thing runs down in time, pause it at 2:54 and carefully look at the picture there), because it was my old workplace. I called up my ex-boss, who sounded stuffed up, and asked her if everything was okay. She said the storms had hit on the other side of Carrollton Avenue from her business and that her building was okay. I managed to pause the image in the slideshow and get a closer look at it, and then I had to laugh. "They included your back room in a slideshow showing all the tornado damage, " I said , "probably because it's just a very messy room. They have NO clue that that's what it's like all the time."

I gave her the URL of the slideshow so that she could get a laugh and hopefully feel a little better physically as a result. Then I called Dan and told him what I saw online, and, since he's seen the back room of her shop before, he started laughing really hard. I guess I gave him a funny for the day. Happy Valentine's, honey.

I just wish and hope that the people affected by all of this can find a little laughter and a little love, too...

Update: Oh, and for some further info, including how you can help from wherever you are, go here.

To cheer on our true first responders, the NOLA bloggers, go here and post your support.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I've been reading a lot of books lately having to do with rock and roll. Rock criticism. Rock critic fiction. Rock biography. Rock autobiography. All of which is somewhat oxymoronic, since rock, in its early days, would kick convention in the butt on a regular basis. Having it somehow canonized in libraries across the country is weird, but it is a literary bonanza that generally slips through the colander held by book banning folks and political correctness mavens all over. One of these days, they will get around to reviling Never Mind The Pollacks. Instead, that book, and others such as Marshall Chapman's autobiographical stories, will sit on the shelves and hint at their quasi-subversiveness to the unsuspecting library browser. At the very least, they'll get their readers to hunt down some music.

I've also been ODing on the NOLA blogosphere, as usual, and there is a highly one-sided media tug o' war out there concerning this area and what is really going on, which is the other reason why I need to get my blogroll on. I kvetched about this some in my last post, but many other blogging folks and media writers and outlets have taken it much further.

Local columnist Lolis Eric Elie put this one out to the readers of the Washington Post, and I agree with a fellow NOLA blogger that everyone has to read it. Required reading for America, people! Pass it on...

However, meanwhile, back at the ranch, this guy does a complete kowtow to our walking id of a mayor in this article. I hated seeing this in the paper and I hated having to slog through it to simply confirm that it wasn't breaking any new journalistic ground. I had to laugh when Nagin implied that there was some political prodding behind the January 11th march on City Hall. Otherwise, the article simply attempted to to put a happy face on what is clearly a sad situation in local leadership.

Then, yesterday morning, I heard a song from my pre-college and college days that got me thinking a little more about my current reading materials. So, to you who played the Violent Femmes' "Add It Up" on the radio, just for me, seemingly (and hey, radio deejay, you tried to turn down the volume on those words in the song that rhyme with luck, but I'm here to say that the FCC has got your number...), I've got another one for you that EVERYONE along the Gulf Coast and the greater N.O. area can sing along to. Well, it's not just for you - sing this one to every ineffectual politician, every journalist who doesn't want to work a little harder to get the real story, everyone who questions why New Orleans should be rebuilt, ... sing it if you're sad and angry. It helps some. Really.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Had to post this link, folks. This fellow slogs through a lot of news and has a fantastic take on it in his blog. He posted a real gem yesterday about a recently departed citizen of these parts that reads like a microcosm of American history.

It is absolutely true that whoever saves one life saves the entire world. Why can't these idiots who are constantly attacking this area from the outside just to further their own views get it through their heads that lives, and worlds, are at stake down here? We just lost a world with Ms Wright's passing. Talking trash about New Orleans won't kill the people that are here and love it, but it will go a ways towards killing the desire others might have to venture down and see for themselves what it's like. I'm not saying it's perfect down here - far from it. I'm saying, give it a chance before you shoe-horn it into your set of preconceptions and misconceptions.

All right. In the interests of promoting various other worlds, I'm gonna get my blogroll on.

(trudging away)

(yelling from a distance) Soon. Very soon.

Friday, February 09, 2007

-Hey, band!

What, Binky?

-Did you hear about the new epidemic going around?
Every man, woman, and child is catchin' it, it's spreadin' from the lake on down.
It's called "Mardi Gras", and they say you get it in your pants.

Aw, hell Binky, that ain't no epidemic! That's a centuries-old excuse to party!

Major apologies to the super soul sister with the magnetic je ne sais quois, and to her fantastic band, but that "Dap-Dip" song intro has been going through my head for the past few days, with my knock you on the head with a two-by-four alterations. That's been the impact of Mardi Gras time on my psyche.

I march in the Barkus parade in the Quarter as escort to my dog, Gilda, and I'm at a loss as to what to wear that will be quick to slip on, since I will be going to the lineup right after religious school Sunday morning. I'm scrambling to get a sitter for the little guy so that Dan and I can go out to a neighborhood restaurant on February 14th, and I say scrambling because there's a parade scheduled to go by our house that same night. RRRRaaaarraaraaagggggghhhhhhh.....

And I haven't even mentioned the guarantees yet. Some would call them traditions, but since we're just along for the ride, so to speak, there are a few things that are guaranteed to occur around this time of year.

1) Barkus. I'm gonna see if there are any potbellied pigs in the procession this year. There was one a number of years back, and the dogs had NO clue what to do. "Uh, hmmm, (sniffsniffsniff) it's got four legs and a tail (sniffsniff, weird look), but that's not a doggy smell (sniffsniffsniffsniff). What the hell kind of animal IS this??!!!???" Since Chris Rose's dog is marching as Barkus royalty, it'll be interesting to see what she writes about the parade afterwards. The only quasi-religious protesting I can possibly see happening would be from Bucky Katt in the cartoon Get Fuzzy. Should be fun...

2) Dan will sell his soul for doubloons.

3)The little guy will bum his way onto a ladder seat to watch a parade or two. The seat will preferably have a little girl sitting in it, too, and the parents of said little girl will think they are both just sooo cute up there. My son is no fool, which is scary.

4)The Mardi Gras Bottom Feeders idea will be resurrected and discussed. Dan and a friend of his from Lafayette (who's lived here for years) talked one year about how unfair it was that guys between 13 and approximately 65 years of age get consistently shorted on the throw counts and must resort to having young kids or cute gals close by to get anything substantial. They lamented having to drag scraps outta the gutters, and decided it would be a great idea to get a truck float one year and make it a giant box with Mardi Gras loot dropping out of the bottom of it as it passed by. Then all the guys could scrape stuff up and get their loot that way.

5) I will be screaming, "Hey, real men can throw this far!" just for the living hell of it.

6) We will remember our late neighbor, Nettie, and how much she loved Mardi Gras. She was a feisty old lady, who, though she wasn't up for leaving her house too much anymore, would always be sitting on her porch with a karaoke machine that blared Mardi Gras music. People would pass by her house, and she'd yell, "He-ey Mardi Gras!" into the microphone and invite the passersby to have a turn at the mike. She would get some real singers up there sometimes. She was also the first person I'd ever heard refer to an ambulance as a "crash truck". Unfortunately, she was taken from her home in one one night and never returned. I'm tempted to get hold of a karaoke machine in her memory, but I don't think we'd be home long enough for us to really give it, and passersby, the attention they deserve. Rest in peace, Nettie.

Where will we be when the parades pass? At the intersection of the gray brick road and the parade route. Oh, and for you NOLA bloggers, bonus points and extra Carnival swag, not to mention a place to pee on Mardi Gras day and some beer, if you: find the pothole from hell, and then you'll be close to where we are when we're not watching floats go by. Hope to see ya! And if not, happy Mardi Gras!

And pray that this doesn't happen to us again, please

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Got a good two feet of hair cut off my head yesterday. Whenever I walk into a hair salon with my hair down to my waist and tell 'em I want it bobbed, the stylists' eyes always bug out and they ask, "Are you sure?" Yeah, I'm sure, otherwise I wouldn't be there in the first place. The day an open heart surgeon asks a patient if he's sure he needs that quadruple bypass is the day I'll be accepting of these folks' alarm. Until then, I reserve the right to be indignant.

Reason why I love New Orleans: better prices on some things. Keep in mind I went to a fancy schmancy hair place here.
NOLA cut: ~$40
Queens, NYC cut: ~$75
I may well end up with a "shingle headache", but it's definitely worth more ways than one.

Another reason to love this city: open discussion over how much revelry and satire is too much or goes too far. Dan, the little guy, and I took in the Krewe du Vieux parade this year for the first time since we returned from NYC. Main reason: friends of ours were marching with the Seeds of Decline subkrewe. Plus, we like the parade. I did hesitate at bringing the little guy, because there are some years when it is a truly raunchy spectacle, but we figured that the joy of seeing good friends outweighed warping his fragile little mind for one night (Dan and I have the other nights covered all by ourselves...). This year, it was relatively tame, plus, I got to see a NOLA blogger or (possibly) two marching along with the whole show. A good friend of ours kept going on and on about how great the giant vagina float was that she saw last year, however, which was annoying to hear after the first couple of times, largely because I had missed it and I woulda liked to see it. If anyone's got a pic, let me know...

As Jews, a good number of my friends and I have got our own troubles within our religion. Out here in New Orleans, however, the troubles amongst Catholics in this Catholic city always come out around Mardi Gras time - and almost always concerning the Krewe du Vieux parade and the insanity that is the French Quarter around this time. A truly bizarre column came out from Chris Rose about his ride as king of KdV - and though I do still enjoy reading his stuff from time to time, this one really puzzled me.

First off, he went and commented about all the religious brouhaha from inside and outside this city as though he was a long-standing krewe member rather than an invited guest of honor. Shouldn't the organizers of KdV have their true say on this one? Perhaps the best way to have dealt with the objections of the Archdiocese and of the Pennsylvania group would have been to give them no more press than they have already received; sometimes the best way to respond to such inane stuff is to just let it die on the vine.

Which brings me to the second thing - that of knowing when to leave well enough alone. The parade still rolled. Rose was having a ball on the float. People appreciated the rude, crude, and still somewhat socially unacceptable themes running through the parade. Why couldn't a simple reporting of what was seen from the king's float have sufficed?

A waaaay better critique than mine can be found here.

My suggestion, as a true outsider: dissolve the Catholic Church into Judaism. It would be the end of the pope and the beginnings of a whole new set of squabbles to add to those that already plague all the different Judaic denominations, sure. The orthodox Jews in Israel would have a field day with the Law of Return. Jewish dietary laws would be more hotly debated than ever before. However, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which usually occurs close to Mardi Gras, all of this stuff would be set aside for a day.

On Purim, we'll celebrate a beauty contest winner exerting her influence on a drunken king and saving her people in the process. Religious mores are busted within the confines of the synagogue, as people boo Haman, the big, bad enemy of the Purim story who wanted to kill all the Jews of Persia because one of them wouldn't bow down to him, and cheer on Esther, Mordechai, and even king Ahasuerus, just a tad...when he's not being laughed at, that is. I myself have heard the Torah, normally chanted with a series of "tropes"(melodic signatures accenting each word), chanted to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" on Purim. More importantly for the New Orleans area, however, is this rabbinic instruction for Purim revelers, detailed by Rabbi Irving Greenberg:

On this day, no fasting is permitted, no eulogies are given, no penitential prayers are recited. The Rabbis were so determined to make this point that they instructed people to drink - at least to the stage when they could no longer tell the difference between blessed Mordechai and accursed Haman. (Those who can't tell the difference all year long are excused on Purim).

Wouldn't that be something? All of New Orleans being Jewish? Parades with satirical themes all over the place - themes that bust some righteous halakhic bubbles? And secular ones, too?

Wait, it's already being done...

Mass conversion to Judaism would never work around here, anyhow. These people love their shellfish too much to give it up.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I'll twist a pen in my hands absentmindedly, turning it over and over again. My absent mind is thinking, "Don't let the gather fall off, don't let it, keep it on center, keep it on, keep it on..."

I saw an ad for GE's latest model of InSinkerator recently, and I instantly thought of mounting the thing on a piece of plywood that fits over the opening of a Rubbermaid trash can. Voila! Instant frit maker, perfect for lost wax glass casting. A woman at the dog park a while back told me how shocked and amazed she was that her disposall had sucked a small wine glass into its speedy steel jaws and ground it up like it wasn't no thang. "Oh, yeah, it'll do that," I said knowingly, knowing she really had no clue...

My bud Justin, the tree man, got the biggest kick out of what I told him he could use a chipper-shredder for (see the InSinkerator thought above). The only problem: the glass would dull the blades. The upside: a sparkling clean machine on the inside!

Lately, I began to get some bad ideas concerning the Starbucks Barista coffee grinder my husband got for Hanukkah. The ideas are bad for two reasons: 1) it's just not built to handle glass grinding, and 2) ...the following story:

The thing was hailed as the answer to all the prayers of the pate de verre glass casters in the glass department. No longer would we have to grind up chunks of glass into smaller pieces using thick mortars and pestles. And what better way to try it out than with an assignment given by an honest-to-God fusecasting master? All eighteen of us trooped downstairs to the basement room where all the raw batch glass was stored, as well as the steam cabinet for removing the wax from casting molds. We beheld this time-saving machine, which sat on a welding table, with bated breath and fierce anticipation. Fusecast Master cut through all that bull and instantly dubbed the thing "the coffee grinder" because of its appearance.

The studio technician flipped on the machine, and had to enlist a few of us to help him hold it down, as it was jumping all over the table on which it was sitting. That was when my giggling fit began. F.M. smiled a little and, placing a small bit of faith in the jumping bean machine and its human restraints, threw a chunk of kugler (solid concentrated colored glass) into the funnel at the top of the machine. Nothing happened. I giggled a little more. A teeny chunk of kugler popped back out of the funnel, and the human restraints couldn't conceal their surprise as they ducked a little for cover. My giggles turned into full-on laughter.

"Stick a piece of wood in there, something, anything to push the kugler down into it," F.M. suggested to the tech, as I laughed a little harder. The students holding down the coffee grinder and crouching on the floor at the same time braced themselves for further mayhem as the tech found a small piece of wood from a pallet that had once held batch glass and tried to delicately mash the stick into the funnel. It's tough to be delicate with a screaming, jumping machine - the thing threw a chunk of the stick back out of the funnel and towards the ceiling. I was doubled over and howling with laughter at this point. My sides were hurting so much. Initially, I had tried to stop because of all the looks I was getting from my classmates, but I abandoned all hope and just let it go when I saw that stick in the tech's hands.

There was a struggle to get the machine turned off - the switch on it was stuck, so the plug had to be pulled. Ahhh, silence - except for the sounds of me laughing and gasping for breath. The student restraints stood at their full heights once again. I managed to collect myself a little when I saw a bemused F.M. inspecting the stuff that had come out of the front of the machine: some chunks of wood and kugler, about the size of peas, sat in the cup. It could be used for something, but not for pate de verre. F.M. grinned, laughed a little, and said,

"This is one useless five thousand dollar machine."

That comment was the end of me for the rest of the day.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Overheard, by my husband, coming from the mouth of our darling four-year-old son:

The little guy saw a dance group marching by in a Metairie parade this afternoon, and said,


And so, parade season has begun...

Pray for us, y'all.

And, parents of little girls: keep close tabs on your daughters. My son is on the loose.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hi, I'm Leigh...

(Hi, Leigh!)

...and I've been attached to the blogosphere for six months now. I'm looking for ways to detach myself.

-So, Leigh, how did this begin?

All I wanted to do was to blog about New Orleans for my friends back in New York. After eight months of quietly going about my business and posting about my family, about this city's damages, both physical and emotional, and about other stuff that just happens, I found my hands itching to try something else, to break out of my teensy digital

-Go on. I flailed around on Blogger randomly, finding some mommyblogs along the way. I was led along a primrose path through their blogrolls to Maternally Challenged, who, at the time, was entering a blogging contest held by this wild and crazy dad (just look at him, promoting drunken blogging on a weekend that vaguely insanely responsible or what?). I took a look and said, hey, if she and all these other people can do it, so can I.

From then on, the wild dad was my conduit. I surfed his Rolodex of blogs with abandon and threw some of his frequent commenters into my Favorites list. And then...and then... (sigh, small sob) I don't know if I can go on...I'm so het up...

- Take your time. We're all here for you.

That's the thing that's so seductive about the blogosphere. There's always SOMEONE there, day or night, and if there isn't you can always make your way through someone's archive.
(big sigh, composing myself)
Anyhoo, I participated in this blogging every day for a month deal, and all I got was this funny little sidebar image...and an increase in my need to see what else was out there. I commented on posts at my favorites like a madwoman. I began including more links within my own posts. I thought I could manage it all and live my life as a good mom, wife, summer camp head teacher, part-time art teacher, dog and cat mom, needlepointer, liturgical singer, and occasional library volunteer. But then...then...
(head in hands, biiiig sigh)

-What happened?

(head out of hands, barely composed)I found another blogging mom, like me, who's local. I got curious about other local bloggers and found this list. Once I added my name to it, I fell down the rabbit hole and into a parallel universe. These people share the same general geographical location as I do (and, in some cases, even the same house) and their perspectives are of great value to me and to the numbers of readers of my blog (that I can currently count on the digits of both hands and feet). The January 11th march on City Hall came and went...unfortunately without me. I did get to check out a lot of pictures and perspectives from those who went. I now surf their blogs and blogrolls regularly.

- So how can we help you?

Well, now that I have managed to live away from the computer for a short while - approximately ten hours - I'm feeling much better now. I only have two questions.

- Uhhhhh....

No, hear me out. Should I really be cursing as much as these other bloggers curse on their blogs? It seems as though everyone's inner children are allowed to run rampant in the blogosphere. As a mom of a young child, however, and a friend to children just entering adolescence who may well come across this blog (i.e., the impressionable kids of my New York friends), I recoil at using it on my little digital corner. What d'you think - trendy, or here to stay, this whole cursing thing?

- Uhhhh, Leigh, we really can't help you. You're just not ready to let go.

No, wait! (struggling with people trying to lift me out of virtual chair) To blogroll or not to blogroll? That is my other question! (batting at hands and feet as I am dragged to virtual door) I read someplace on the wild dad's blog that carrying a blogroll actually decreases the likelihood that one's site will crop up at a high position in a search engine's search. (kicking at a grasping hand) BUT I want to share with anyone who comes across my blog all the neat sites I have found. (throwing a few punches) Then (evil cackling) I can ensnare others as I have been ensnared! Heeheeeheheheheeeeehehheeheheeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

As I hit the ground, I hear:

- We'll be here for you when you are REALLY ready!
(door slamming. I stare at the "Bloggers Anonymous" sign on the outside)

But....But...but they didn't answer my questions.
(dejectedly, I walk away, kicking at some virtual garbage)


Thursday, February 01, 2007

I was fuming a tad over the dishes in the sink (a lot of emotions seem to be coming out with the tap water from my kitchen faucet lately) late this afternoon, because I was thinking about how fate had conspired to keep me in the kitchen cooking food that Dan had looked up all the recipes for and made all the groceries for.

There's a big dinner we're having with friends tomorrow night - a Tu B'Shevat seder commemorating this year's birthday of the trees on the Jewish calendar. Dan came up with a nice couple of recipes courtesy of the Internet and some Sephardic cookbooks in our possession, and then, earlier this week, he dropped a small nuclear device - uh, he said, "I've got a band performance next Thursday, and since I have that going on, maybe I should be going to choir practice this Thursday, and you can stay home with the little guy and cook all of this up, if that's OK..."

Like a doofus in love, I saw his point of view and said, "Okay." That was then.

This afternoon, it was, "Oh, NO. What did I get myself into? Why am I always sooo sympathetic?"

Well, something or someone intervened. Edie let Dan know that we wouldn't be having choir practice at our synagogue for the next two weeks because of Mardi Gras, and when Dan called me from his car to ask my honest opinion of what should be done, I told him I thought he should stay home and cook.

I headed to choir practice, which consisted largely of an hour of reorganizing our choir books and then singing for another half hour, with many jokes being shared during the music shuffling. Most of the jokes had to do with priests, ministers, and rabbis, with one good one cropping up concerning Finkelstein and Jesus. A marvelous time was had by all.

I headed home, walked in the door to the gorgeous smell of the brisket Dan is cooking for tomorrow night, and he said to me, "Our son began to talk about God at bedtime."


"He wanted me to read that Ruth and Naomi storybook to him (by Jean Marzollo, for you parents out there. It's very good). Then he just started going on and on about God. About how God lives in New York and all kinds of stuff."

"Oh, my GOD!"

"Exactly!" Dan said, grinning.

I went out to walk the dog, came back, and helped chop up some veggies to throw in with the seared brisket for when it was time for it to sit in the oven.

"So what exactly was he saying about God?" I asked as I cut up some carrots.

"Oh, just that God was in New York, looking after all the taxicabs," Dan said.


All I could think was, if that's true, that explains a lot.

And I was very happy I hadn't told any of the religious jokes at the synagogue earlier in the evening, although I did laugh at some of them...

Forgive me, Lord...