Monday, April 30, 2007

I wasn't going to post today, but...but...I cannot......escape........the.. blogosphere's.........gravitational... PULL!!!!

Saintseester asks one of the most pertinent of all the NFL draft questions to date.

My gal Missy from the Midwest posted a real beverage-snortin' funny in her neck of the woods (adults only, y'all).

Various NOLA blogpocheh menschen are posting about the unclaimed overseas aid that this country coulda used to help rebuild New Orleans. Yep, this is what happens when a city is left to die a slow, agonizing death.

And, finally, I know I haven't been amongst the most sterling of parental examples in this world. Dan and I have taken the little guy to many places in this life - bar-hopping in Manhattan, a sports bar in Mobile to watch a Saints' game, good eatin's at a Biloxi casino, even - God help me - a local Hooters - but somebody tell me why one person's home can make all of the abovementioned places seem like Chuck E. Cheese's? If I'd have known this woman's house we were visiting was more like a museum than a home, I wouldn't have brought my son in the first place. Granted, all he broke was one of these, but the lady of the house treated it like it was a one-of-a-kind objet d'art. Yes, he needs instruction in the finer points of respecting other people's property and things, but it wasn't easy punishing him for breaking the thing....because I was inwardly cringing at the presence of it in this lady's garden. If I ever get that het up about that kind of stuff, someone needs to give me a swift kick in the rear.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Save the children!!!

Or, at the very least, save their summer:

Before Katrina, the United Way usually put aside $100,000 to finance 20 summer programs, and NORD and other agencies would pick up the rest, said Mary Ambrose, the United Way's senior vice president.

But this year, the coalition is getting $310,000 less from two foundations and $1.6 million less from the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps, a nonprofit group started after Katrina and Hurricane Rita that allocates public money. The Afterschool Partnership, a collaborative of nonprofit, community, faith-based and school-based groups, is contributing $150,000, but the coalition is still short $1.6 million.

Many of the summer programs were required to have a stronger mental health component, Ambrose said, because of traumas related to the storm. Even if the 92 programs are fully financed and reach the 17,000 children in six parishes, the coalition estimates, it may only scratch the surface. Educators say there are about 28,000 schoolchildren in the city and there could be as many as 40,000 before the fall.

Perhaps the "buffoons" from the Winding Goat Path Home Through the Himalayas who sent this guy another congratulatory letter after he got his recovery check can spare some loose change. Or maybe local, state, and national politicos can check out their popularity numbers on the wall and cough up some dough to jerk up some approval ratings.

Oh, and I've been thinking about this fellow's post on Brennan's of Houston all week. Brennan's here and elsewhere is pretty darn good...but the problem is, I can't help thinking about Andy Warhol every time I think of Brennan's.

When I was a young 'un growing up in Houston, we certainly made the rounds among the good and great restaurants of the area, but never Brennan's. The general consensus was that it could never really measure up to the original, but I think the idiotic commercials they got on the Houston boob tubes finally killed any inclinations we might have had to eat there. Who did they get as their spokesman? You guessed it...

The commercial was shot to look as gray as possible, with Warhol wearing these massive glasses over his eyes, staring straight into the camera, and telling everyone in a deadly-dull voice that they ought to go to Brennan's. He looked as though he was going to collapse any second. Hell, no, we were not going to Brennan's on his recommendation.

Alas, the commercial seems to have died along with the artist, because I couldn't find it anyplace. The closest I could find was this 1968 spot for Braniff that also stars Sonny Liston. Liston looks like he wants to beat the hell outta his bewigged neighbor, who only looks slightly more animated than he did fifteen or so years later in the Brennan's ad. A comment accompanying this commercial says it isn't even Warhol's voice on the Braniff ad. Good me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Little things, for many reasons:

A great reason for me not to watch much TV anymore:
"It's hard to be sexy with a fish stuck in your leg."

A reason for me to get a tad disgruntled with the many forms recovery takes in these parts: the invasion of the yeshiva (or, I guess, Bais Yaakov) girls. Yes, they mean well. Yes, they served to help out and distract a class that wasn't concentrating too much on their clay-forming work. Yes, they helped clean up the art room and made it a tad cleaner than it usually is after the K-3 tornadoes have hit it. Problem is, they came into the art room with only a couple of seconds' warning from a school administrator, the girls spent a good amount of time taking digital camera photos of each other with a kid of their choice (just to demonstrate to the folks back home that they did help a kid affected by the events of 8-29), and, in all likelihood, this was not sanctioned by the school at all, but by the Jewish organization that shares the same building.

How do I know this? After my last class, I asked the principal where the group was from, and she said, "No idea."

Uhhh, anyone heard of advance warning? Not to mention security issues? Hello?

Reasons to be kinda concerned with showing how much fun I'm having while I sing: after months of rehearsing one on one with our synagogue's choir director, I am told at the beginning of this week that I have yet another song to sing. Overall, mind you, I'm thrilled to be doing a lot of solos, something I haven't done since high school. However, I've also been getting very nervous.

The sound system hasn't been set up yet (it should be tonight, hopefully), so I've been trying to sing out more, which means going for a near shout, especially over these guys. Top that off with a new song to sing and then, the cherry on this sundae:

"Cantorial soloist, start looking like you're having fun!" Choir Director says after the first song.

Ben Schenck, the clarinetist and bandleader, suggested I do some heavy metal head-banging. I wish.

Wish me luck, instead, y'all. I'm gonna need it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I tried to post this earlier, but Internet Explorer decided I'd performed an illegal operation and shut itself down. No, I didn't shoot anyone. No, I didn't do any drugs or sell any. There was no indecent exposure involved. So what did I do that was so illegal???? I ask you...

Yesterday, some of the NOLA blogpocheh pinpointed yet another example of our walking id of a mayor's foot-in-mouth disease. Really, it was neither new, nor was it news, but it did put me in mind of a Hasidic tale:

A man who was a notorious gossip went to receive wisdom from a rabbi.

"Certainly you may study with me!" said the rabbi, who knew of this man. "But first, you must take this feather pillow and empty it of its contents all over the land. When you are done, return and we will begin."

The man thought this was a curious request, but he went away and did as he was told. He began to enjoy himself a little as he scattered the feathers all over the countryside, watching as the wind carried a number of them away to other places. He returned to the rabbi, empty pillowcase in hand.

"Wonderful!" said the rabbi. "You now need to go back and recover all the feathers. Return to me when the case is full."

The man's heart sank. "But, Rabbi!" he cried, "that's impossible! The feathers are everywhere! They are scattered across the meadow! In the trees! On the surface of the stream! The wind even carried some off! How will I ever do that???"

"Those feathers are like words," the rabbi replied. "Once any words have left your lips, they are impossible to recover. They, too, can be carried on the wind and scattered all over, never to be taken back."

So, hey, if Nagin doesn't fully comprehend the point of this story, somebody just give him a pillowcase and tell him to stuff it.


And now for something completely different...

Weird Superstitions!

Exhibit A:

I told a friend of mine this past weekend about the little guy's musings concerning the gun-free status of the Tulane campus (check the comments on this post) and she told me a little something about the above chunk of artillery in front of the Navy Building at Tulane. Seems that back in the day, it was said that if a, uh, virtuous Newcomb gal were to walk in front of the cannon, it would go off. We both laughed at the mental picture of loads of college girls carefully walking behind the gun so as not to tempt fate. Got to wonder if this piece of nutty mythos has been passed down to present-day Tulane attendees...

Exhibit B:

The gun story called to mind my own college years, in which it was said that the little fountain in front of this venerable old library (pictured above) carried a terrible curse on it. If anyone were to drink the water from this accursed fountain, he/she would die in the city and/or state in which said fountain resides. Fellow collegians and I would regularly see bikers and joggers filling their water bottles at this fountain, and we would work extremely hard to overcome the impulse to run up behind those people and scream, "You're gonna DIE HERE! You'll NEVER LEAVE! AHH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!!"

Anybody else got any college myths to share? Anyone? Anyone?...

Monday, April 23, 2007

I am very much recovered from my virus, and I am now up to actually picking up the Times-Picayune and reading it before I use it to cover the tables in my K-3rd grades art classes.

First off, columnist Lolis Eric Elie notes the short life of a New Yorker "Talk of the Town" -ish publication known as Scat. He then goes on to a short, complimentary profile of New Yorker writer Dan Baum's blog, praising it as "a worthy successor to 'Scat' ". Scat magazine's domain claim expired as of last Wednesday, and, while Dan Baum does have a good blog, (which the Perfesser has checked out and blogged about on occasion...), I would argue that Elie ain't lookin' in the right places for his Scat fix. I even told him so.

My email to him linked to this venerable list (okay, maybe rogue's gallery? ... police blotter?... scat scoopers?...), directed him to some sites on which to start, and now I am gonna sit back and see what happens.

Will he:
a) chuck the email entirely?
b) save the list for a later time, then chuck it?
c) check out my suggestions and run screaming for the nearest dark, comfy corner?
d) get into it, become a blogging fool himself, and attend a Geek Dinner?
e) beat down the doors to Scat's creator and demand that she get back on the stick with her 'zine?
f) write what he wants?

It will most likely be a) and f), methinks. If c) happens, it could well mean that, since we have a dire mental health crisis in these parts, Elie could end up in jail or in Alexandria...or, they'll be feeding him on trays in that dark, comfy corner.

I'm off to cover those tables...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Reopening this weekend!
Life IS good!!!

For a sneaky peek, check Tim's
And, for the Camellia Grill obsessives, check the comments on Tim's post.

Uncomfortable update, 10:15 - I just saw this lovely example of Big Brother at work in Venezuela. Lately, the Snoopy MetLife blimp has been hovering over the greater New Orleans area. I wonder...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pop Culture Navigation

Adrastos posted a tribute to Jackie Robinson, who had a parkway named after him not too long ago. Traveling Mermaid has her "Mermaid Mondays" in which she posts some tantalizing YouTubed tidbits of music for all to enjoy. Jeffrey, in partial reaction to his library duties, no doubt, posts stuff like this. Ashley puts a little N'Awlins into this picture of Rachael Ray and watches the fur fly in the comments. Hell, even Editor B is reviewing Netflix flicks.

And what have I got? My four-year-old pop culture blender, the little guy...of course!

He's moved in a different direction from his soul music. Behold the lyrics that have been coming out of his mouth recently:

Set me free, little girl
All you gotta do is set me freee, little girl
You know you can do it if you try
All you gotta do is set me free, free, free

And these, which he sings in the tub:

Waiting (waiting) waiting on the world to change
You know we're waiting (waiting) waiting on the world to change
It's not that we don't care
It's that we know that the fight ain't fair
That's why we're waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change.

The day that either Ray Davies or John Mayer comes out with Jewish music albums, I'll be on it, because the little guy doesn't want to hear us singing "Dayenu", but I'm certain that if he hears either Davies or Mayer, or, say, Elvis singing it, he'll be singing it before he goes to sleep at night.

Last night, the little guy was, strangely enough, transfixed by an episode of PBS' Secrets of the Dead, in which the circumstances of Jesus' death and the true location of his tomb are discussed in occasionally excruciating detail.

"I don't think he should be watching this," I said to Dan.

"I think Secrets of the Dead is great!" Dan enthused. "I especially liked their show on syphilis!"

When he realized what he had just said, Dan had to laugh, but it really only hit him after I laughed. I was suddenly hit by a picture of the little guy at his preschool class' circle time meeting, saying to his teachers and his fellow students, "Do you know where syphilis came from? It's a mystery..." The reality is, one of these days, he might do it. All of us are deluded into thinking that kids move on and forget very easily, but what most people don't realize is that it all comes out when we are least expecting it. For all I know, my son will start discussing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the next time we're at the synagogue...

Then again, it could be worse. Dan was ready to burn the Madagascar DVD that seemed to be on nearly every day for a month not too long ago. The little guy has watched more than enough of Happy Feet to perform his version of a tap-dancing penguin for everyone at a restaurant one night (those people had no clue they were getting dinner and a show, none at all...). And I am reminded of a little conversation my dad and my grandfather had over the little guy's viewing of SpongeBob SquarePants a while back...

Dad: Why are you letting him watch this crap? You can see his brain coming out through his eyeballs!!!!!

Grandpa (watching it with the little guy, absentmindedly answering): So? He's enjoying it.

Words to live by, huh?

Oh, well, I've got my own pop culture pursuits to contemplate. Baseball season has begun, as Sheckrastos has reminded me with his Robinson post, and, since the New Orleans Zephyrs are now a Mets affiliate (Dan and I were pleasantly surprised to see a Zephyrs game being broadcast in New York a couple of weeks ago, with former Miracle Met and Zephyrs' announcer Ron Swoboda doing his thing.), I can move on to loftier pursuits, such as this:

What the heck happened to Jesse Orosco's glove?

(for Rakowitz's project, go to this link, click on "Projects", and then on "Up and away")

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'm at home. With a very sore throat. Trying to will myself back to health because this is looming in my future. I highly recommend this service to everyone, by the way, regardless of your religious persuasion. It's always a lot of fun, the music is good, and there is some free wine afterwards...for those of you who will be continuing your personal celebrations later on that same evening, I say wine before beer, never fear.

I've been thinking a great deal about a question that was asked of me by one of my religious school first graders.

This past Sunday was erev Yom Hashoah - the eve of Holocaust Day. How more than a decade's worth of prejudice, warfare, and genocide can be distilled into one day has been one that smarter and more religious souls than I have been grappling with for a long time, but the agreed-upon time for official observance is now approximately a week after the end of Passover. There is still another problem: how do you communicate the importance and dread of this day without filling really young kids with horror and loathing towards their fellow men and women?

After the school day, a teacher mentioned that, of all the holidays in the Jewish calendar, this is one that hasn't had much in the way of hope woven into its fabric.

Still and all, the pre-kindergarten and K-1 grades gathered in the chapel for a session in which the educational director singled out kids for certain things (all the blond kids, up to the front, all the kids wearing red, come to the front), told the assembly that the kids singled out were special in some way, and then asked if that was fair. The answer from everybody was no. The director talked of a time when people were singled out for being Jewish, were denied access to education, forbidden to work in their professions, and were eventually sent away. Some of the older kids knew about the implications of having been "sent away" in Nazi Germany already, but everyone got the basic point. And one bright kid had thought it through.

Before the assembly, my class had just been doing an exercise about mitzvot, literally translated as "commandments", but expanded some with the catchall phrase "good deeds". Everyone had had to think about what mitzvot they had done over the past week, and we discussed them as a group. Kids had visited relatives, called or sent cards to those who were sick, watered plants, helped out siblings, taken care of animals, even adopted animals from the pound.

After the assembly, one kid asked, "Was it wrong for me to have singled out one dog to adopt from the pound? If it's so wrong to single out people, what makes singling out a pet right?"

I told him and the other kids in my class that mitzvot start out small, that we all do what we are capable of doing. "Are you able to adopt all the dogs from the pound that were there that day?" I asked the new pet owner.

"No," he said. "My family wouldn't have been able to take care of them."

"So you have done what you could do," I told him. "At another time in your life, if you have the means and the will, maybe you will go back and adopt every dog from the pound and give them a good home."

The question seemed to have been settled for the kids...but it wasn't for me. It still isn't.

An old joke, just to jar me outta my mood a tad:

-Close the window, my friend, it's cold outside.
-Nu, and if I close the window, will it be warm outside?

It's an old tradition, answering questions and requests with more questions. I'm living in a city that is full of that old tradition, ad nauseum. I am also living in a time that is not at all free of what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil". The events in Blacksburg, Virginia, are an explosive example of this - a college senior turning a gun on fellow classmates and on teachers. There are questions surrounding the massacre that will most likely never be answered to everyone's satisfaction. It is those unanswered questions that will simply feed our fears and cause us to point our fingers indiscriminately. People will be hurt again.

The real problem lies with the questions that we have it within our power to answer - in fact, they are answers that we have in hand, if we will only use those answers to do good. Insurance companies should be doing the decent thing and helping people - instead, they are gouging whoever they can in whatever way they can and filling others with the dread fear that they are next. People who want to live simply and carry on with their lives where they are are being railroaded into situations where their livelihoods are threatened. Darn it, we even have it within our power to protect our homes from natural and unnatural disaster, if we could only tug on the ears of the right people with the right intentions. Instead, we are all chasing money around in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to lead our lives along the principles with which this country was founded.

Who knew that ideology was the least of our fears? Money has got it beat by a mile.

This country has shown, time and again in its past, that it has the means and the will to do a hell of a lot. Lately, however, I haven't been seeing much evidence of either being used in a way that is really of help to most people who call this country home.

I look at my two hands and wonder what the hell I can do. What is within my power? Where the hell can I find more hope? I'm just a mom with a kid and some part-time teaching jobs. And a blog - one among gazillions.

I guess I just do what I can. I teach some thirty-plus kids each week about art and about Judaism. I sing some Jewish liturgy. I keep a messy home, walk my dog, and take care of a husband and a little guy. I write about it all, and then some, as best I can.

But I don't have to feel entirely secure about it. I keep my eyes and ears open for change, and I keep kinda busy.

And that is pretty damn powerful...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It makes me proud to have been born in Tennessee, to boot.
I looked at YouTube for appropriate commemorations of Yom Hashoah, but was saddened by the numbers of Shoah deniers who have posted their bile on the site.
Then, I remembered the movie made about these students' ongoing project.
I recommend that EVERYONE go rent it and watch. Period.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

(to play catch up, go here, here, and here)

Sunday morning, 7:30 AM


I got out of bed at seven, in that crystalline, hyperawake state that is the prelude to a full-on crash and burn from exhaustion. I had no time to fully address this, however, because I had to walk over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music campus, make for Fulton Street on the edge of it, and open up the world's largest public access glass studio.

The only way to get up to the third floor of what had been an old BAM theater was by way of an elevator. The regular doors were alarmed, and I had to deal with the implications of that on another day. For today, it all worked out. The elevator doors opened onto the third floor, I ran for the alarm system keypad, and punched in the correct code. I scurried around the studio from then on, firing up glassworking stations, checking the furnaces, assembling lampworking equipment for the few people who were in need of the use of a table torch at nine AM. I then took refuge in the head studio manager's office and did my best not to collapse in a tired heap on the desk.

I took a bit of a pay cut for the assistant studio manager's job, thinking I'd possibly be able to work my way into more glassworking time. It was a smaller hourly wage than working in the studio offices for the director and for the editors and staff of the glass art magazine that was put out by the studio. However, as a receptionist, I was working only one day a week, and the studio managing job was more hours.

Besides, I answered the phone one Sunday, and listened to the biggest mess of gibberish I'd ever heard through fiber-optics. "What?" I said. The gibberish continued. "What???" I said, a little louder. The gibberish speaker got louder himself, and even more agitated. With every "What?" from me, the speaker got even angrier and lost almost all ability to communicate, until he finally yelled out his name...and I immediately became superapologetic and extremely embarrassed. The poor man was a Muranese glass artist, thoroughly experienced in Venetian glassworking techniques. All he was doing was calling to see if the work he'd done for a demonstration the day before was out of an annealing oven yet, and he hit an instant roadblock in Lil' Miss Doofus Receptionist over the phone. I apologized profusely, transferred his call to the studio manager's office, and sat down heavily in my chair.

So I took on the assistant studio manager position when it opened up - or, I should say, one of the three to four studio manager positions. I sat in on some training sessions with all of us new hires a couple of times before I began the new job in earnest. While we were going over the workings of Digitry oven controllers, I could feel someone staring at me. I tried not to notice, but one of the new guys was practically boring holes into my brain. When we took a short break, the new guy walked up to me and said, "How old are you? You can't be more than sixteen!!!!"
His tone of voice clearly said, "What the hell are you doing here?" For a moment, I thought I'd somehow beaten some friend of his out of a job, but I told him that I was actually six years older than what he thought, and he walked off, shaking his head.

Managing the studio was a double-edged sword, as it turned out. Yes, I had more time in the studio - taking care of other people's needs. I got my eyelashes singed off when I was firing up a small "garage" (a working annealer which people used to make these), I had to stay late at times charging the studio's three furnaces with more glass for people to use when they rented time, and I commisserated with the head manager on the semi-constant usage of hydroflouric acid in the grinding and polishing room (please, please, PLEASE, folks, if you value the bones in your body, DON'T go using this stuff in any form). It was, in reality, a position of babysitting people with all levels of glassworking experience and making sure that they didn't hurt the equipment, or themselves, in the process.

However, the Sunday morning workers seemed to have their competence and their safety procedures well in hand, because I really wasn't bothered too much in that office that day. 2:30 PM came around, finally, and I dragged myself back down Atlantic Avenue to my Smith Street digs. Walking up the couple of flights to my apartment was almost more than I could bear, but somehow, I made it. I holed myself up in my room and fell asleep.

I don't remember any of my dreams, but if I had any, I'd bet that one of them might have centered along the lines of that infamous 1970's N.Y. Daily-News screamer headline concerning Gerald Ford:

Because SHE Already Has

Friday, April 13, 2007

Yeah, yeah. I got off track on my New York story.

Saturday, early eve, 5:30 PM


I'm in the van. Life is good. We are hurtling up north of the city, past the Bronx, past Yonkers. The skies are getting darker, but we don't care. We are bonding over work and life experiences in the hour or so it takes to get to the house. We're even singing along to some Rod Stewart on the radio.

You wear it well
A little old fashioned but that's all right
And I do, if I do say so myself. Through a phone book mistake (Second Job Boss told me to go to OK Uniforms. When I looked it up in the Yellow Pages, I glommed on to OK Tailor Shop instead and looked no further than that listing. Oops), I have ended up with a snazzy uniform tailored specially for me at a shop on Essex Street in the remnants of the old Lower East Side. I change into it at the house once we get there and begin helping with the setup of the hors d'oeuvres trays and the open bar. It's cold enough outside for some snow to still be on the ground, and, since we are lacking some ice indoors, we put bottles of champagne out in the snow in front of the front walk. At the very least, they will be good festive decorations.
At eight o'clock, guests begin to trickle into the monster McMansion. I'm walking around with some of the appetizers and, for some reason, one of the guests takes a shine to me, maybe because I look like a fourteen-year-old girl in glasses, with a bow in her hair, playing dress-up in a tux. As the night goes on and the house packs it in, this fellow will be the one insisting on yanking me through the crowds and clearing the way as I come around with more trays of food. Nice to have a foot-traffic controller on your side.
The lady of the house asks the captain of our crew why the owners of our operation haven't come to the party. Our cap'n has to explain that the owner just would not be able to enjoy herself, because she would constantly be throwing a critical eye on the layouts of the food, on whether or not the bar is stocked well enough, on the quality and courteousness of the waitstaff - you know, all the nagging details. "That's true," the lady agrees. "Still, I wish she'd been able to come. I think she still would have had fun."
Hell, despite it all, I had fun. My feet were killing me, my arms were ready to fall off some, and the partygoers had some insatiable appetites, but everyone was enjoying themselves. On breaks, we got to enjoy some of the food ourselves, especially the guacamole, which I finally learned to like on this job despite being raised on Tex-Mex food as a young 'un (sorry, Dad). The gentleman of the house had imbibed a great deal of the offerings at the open bar, and he regaled us with the story of how he met the woman who became his wife, and how he finally convinced her to become his wife (it involved chasing her around his desk at work at one point. Oh, yeah, that'll get the love of your life to give you the time of day...). At one point, he decided to get to know us a little better.
"So Leigh, what do you do when you're not doing this ?"
"I blow glass," I said automatically.
He slapped his hand to his forehead and reeled a little. "Oh my God!" he exclaimed. "I'm trying to think - is it Ira? Seymour? Ritchie Glass? Which one is it?????!!!!!????" he roared, slapping his thigh.
Heh heh. Heh heh. Heh. Oooookay, break'soverbacktowork...
The party went on until two in the AM, when the only thing left at the bar was the bloody mary mix. We had already ventured out into the snow to get the champagne bottles, and those were long gone. We piled everything back into the van (which didn't take long - there wasn't much food left, either) and the drunken master of the house bade me farewell with a " 'Bye, Leigh! Good luck on, ah, blowing glass!!!!"
How did his wife stand it? I wondered.
On the road again. And we got lost, dammit. By the time we got in to Manhattan, it was four AM. I got on the F train back to Smith Street and didn't fall into bed there until five AM. Two and a half hours later, I had to open up a public access studio for Sunday morning glass art fools. My working marathon was far from over.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

God, I hate it when this kind of abyss opens up.

Recovery czar Ed Blakely made comments that called New Orleanians "buffoons" and condemned the city's population to a position of making way for the "energy" of new blood moving into the area. Though Blakely has apologized for his comments, they have opened a bit of a rift in the blogpocheh that parallels a centuries-old problem in these parts - that of entitlement due to ancestry.

Granted, most of the people who are blogging about New Orleans are not part of the traditional upper crust in these parts. And I, for one, am happy about that.

No, the lines that are being drawn, the chests that are being puffed up, are those belonging to those who have lost a lot, if not everything, and those who are not in the same boat. Those who lived through all the hell of Katrina and the floods and those who moved here afterwards. Those who are suspicious of outsiders - ANY outsiders - and those who will, at the very LEAST, give people who made the choice to come here something of a chance. Those who want blood for the insult of being called a buffoon, and those who let it roll off their backs.

Should I go on and on?

I have said it many times in commenting on other people's blogs about this latest name-calling, and I will say it again. We who want the city to come back better than ever without losing what makes this place great are going nuts over peanuts. We are showing that words hurt. We are unfortunately proving Blakely right in that we are behaving "a bit like the Shiites and Sunnis" over his assessments.

When does criticism become self-defeating? When does pride become a creaky crutch? When we cannot get past all the names, all the slights, imagined or no, and work towards a common cause.

But then again, I am the ultimate outsider. I wasn't born here, I didn't lose much property-wise in the storm, and I chose to move back here after the storm with my family. Hell, I'm not even Christian, people. Obviously, I have NO clue.

I would be - and I am - much more alarmed that the recovery czar is not taking any questions from anybody in this city concerning its recovery. Czar Outsider is taking his cues from the rest of City Hall, darn it. That should have been a major red flag well before all of this sorry buffoon business. (thanks, David)

Besides, I read this little passage: Those who demand a “right to return” for former residents are merely “using people” for political ends, Dr. Blakely said sharply in an interview - and I got a tad queasy. There is one other country on this planet that quibbles over a "right to return" issue, and that is Israel. Ultra-orthodox forces in the Knesset have been trying for ages to get the "Who is a Jew?" question defined on their terms, which would severely curtail the number of people allowed Israeli citizenship. If they ever succeeded in narrowing that category of "Jewishness", well, I know I'd be excluded, because I'm a secular Jew. Most of the American Jewish population would be barred from entering Israel as citizens as well.

So think about this the next time you are willing to draw blood over words: how would you fence in New Orleans? How would you determine who is best qualified to work for the benefit of this city? And before you dig in your heels, check to see which side of the fence you are really on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Saturday morning, approximately 10 AM


I hoofed it all over Manhattan for weeks with copies of my resume and a cover letter, trying like hell to get a job that would be the beginning of getting out of my aunt's duplex. I got two interviews out of all my walking and paper-passing: one of them started out well and looked like it was going to be a full-time job, until they asked me what I thought my salary should be. Going on (possibly) doofus advice from my dad, I gave them a number and never heard from them again. The second interview went well, and I began working on a part-time basis for a crystal shop on Madison Avenue. I was taking a three-percent commission on my sales as well as an hourly wage, and, since most of the stuff in the shop was well out of my price range and the holidays were here, I figured I'd be making a great deal of extra change with the sales.

Oh, but the things I had to do in the shop to get that extra change...

Saturday morning, I arrived with my uniform in hand for the second job, which was coming up immediately after my time selling crystal sculptures and vases and the like. I can't remember exactly what transpired in the way of sales on that particular day, but I can tell you that over time, my sales pitches got better. I was always impeccably dressed, I had to constantly do research on the various artists who had come in and designed work for the studio - Salvador Dali, Hilton McConnico, Phillippe Starck - and I had to hunt down in a packed closet of a basement the correct box for the correct piece that was sold and, in some cases, gift-wrap it with a paper that would wrinkle if you looked at it wrong. Standard stuff.

Customers, and my boss, made things a tad more interesting, however. A fellow browsing in the shop smiled at me, pointed to an amoebic Starck bud vase and said, "Have you ever seen 'A Clockwork Orange'?" with a slight leer. He began to tip the vase back and forth in a way not unlike the movements of the big phallic sculpture seen in the movie. I regretted having said that I'd seen it, and was glad when the guy left without likening anything else in the shop to genitalia.

Another customer came in, a narrow woman with wiry glasses that pinched her skinny nose. My boss and the other salesperson there began acting like they could barely be civil to this lady, who had come in with her mop of a terrier. All the woman wanted was some addition to a set of wineglasses she'd bought from the shop, and she prattled on about the glasses as I was sent down to the basement to procure more examples to show her - as I walked out of the room, her dog snapped at my heels and growled and yapped away. Once she and her godawful pooch left, the women began recounting all the other episodes they'd had with Ms Pinched. I told them I couldn't believe how ill-tempered her dog was. "That's nothing," they said. "You should see her kid." Apparently, it was everything they could do to keep their professional demeanors and keep this woman's darling little terror from breaking everything in the store. I sighed inwardly with relief that I hadn't had to deal with him.

I liked my boss, who could be a little stiff at times, and whose idea of being open was to tell me she knew we'd get on well together because we were both Sagittarians, but she took a chance on me, and I wanted to work hard for her. She liked the way I decorated the teensy holiday tree with the limited edition ornaments, even though I was a little Jewish girl who hadn't decorated a tree since I was four. I apparently had a knack for handling the wrapping paper, which she also appreciated. Today, though, I was pushing her good temper.

My boss from my second job called in the early afternoon to confirm that I would be working later that evening. "See you at five," she said.

"There must be some mistake," I said, surprised. "I was told to be there at six. I don't get off work here until five." Ohhh, boy. Second Job Boss told me to talk with Crystal Shop Boss about the time change. Predictably, she was mad. And kind of offended. I'd messed with her employee code, and possibly some unspoken Sagittarian code, which did not include lenience towards those who wanted early dismissal from their work with little notice. Crystal Shop Boss let me know in her elegant, stern way that this was inconsiderate and unacceptable.

I called Second Job Boss back, my stomach churning. "I made a commitment to be here until five," I told her. "I didn't learn about the earlier time until you told me just now," I said, trying not to sound panicked and peeved. She sighed, said she'd see what she could do, and hung up.

I waited on her call, feeling the silent wrath of Crystal Shop Boss. Was this all really worth getting this mad? I wondered. I was getting more and more upset as I tried to do piddly things such as dusting the shelves and stamping order forms with product return information - anything to keep me busy while I waited on Second Job Boss to call. I wasn't sure who or what would kill me first: Crystal Shop Boss or the suspense. Urgggh.

The phone rang. It was for me.

Relief. A weight off my shoulders. A lowering of Madame Crystal's sword from over my head. As long as I took a cab straight to my second job once I got off at five, I'd be on to work tonight. Phew.

"Don't ever do that again," Crystal Shop Boss said.

"Oh, no ma'am," I said, my Southern girl roots showing.

We could all relax, and I could rejoice.

I grabbed my second job uniform, got out of the shop at five on the nose, and got a cab pretty quickly. I made it to the second job with minutes to spare and piled into a van for more work - and adventures of a crazier sort.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Before I get started on my Nu Yawk story, I must direct y'all to this link, so you can judge for yourselves what the Walking Id's legacy is going to be. I find this quote especially poignant:

Hubbard considers Nagin a symptom of "the first generation of black leaders with no history of a civil rights background. We wound up with style and no substance. Nagin never explained his game plan. He never had a playbook. Nagin can't be any better than the people around him. I don't know if he has anyone on his staff who can tell him no."

And, as the blogpocheh has been reporting here, here, and here (not to mention the mainstream media), it seems recovery czar Ed Blakely has been drinking the same Kool-Aid, minus the style spice. I'm willing to make up the "buffoon" T-shirts if there is a demonstrated market for 'em - and Blakely just paved the way. Thanks, dude.



Smith Street was on the verge.

Hell, all of Brooklyn is on the verge, period. It's larger than Manhattan in landmass, but it is further from the continental U.S., blocked by Manhattan. And over ten years ago, it wasn't sharing in the kinder, gentler, safer New York City that Mayor Giuliani was supposedly presiding over - not yet, anyway. These days, Brooklyn has caught up some in that department - the Nets are moving to its downtown, it is becoming inundated with some brand-new high-rise condo-type places, and those who are nearly too hip to live have made their way to neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Red Hook, and even to Smith Street, at the heart of the Brooklyn Heights - Boerum Hill neighborhood. In late 1995, though, the boutiques and the Michelin star-rated restaurants had not arrived - just lil' ol' me.

Friends I knew in the five boroughs were getting priced out of their neighborhoods. Manhattan was not realistic at all anymore. Even Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood was starting to climb up there in the rent department. However, I lucked out in two ways - I was getting out of my aunt's apartment in Manhattan, where I had overstayed my welcome, and I was headed to a spot on Smith where I had a room for cheap that wasn't a flophouse. The little room was part of a two-bedroom place two stories above a fish store. I would be sharing it with a woman who was separated from her husband, who was asking for $400 a month from me for the room, and who paid all of the rent each month to some mob types who hung out in business suits at a butcher shop down the street.

It took me nearly two months to find this place, and it was taking three jobs to pay the rent and take care of necessities such as food. I liked the jobs, but I knew that two of them would be nonexistent once the holiday season was over. Plus, in all the time I'd been in NYC - approximately three-plus months - I'd had a total of four hours in front of a glory hole working hot glass. I needed a change. But first, I needed some more money and some time to explore potential job connections.

One week in November, I came to a potential workplace in New Orleans and tried it out. What I loved the most about the new opportunity was the fact that I could do the glassworking and live at the same time. I'd already made up my mind to go, but I wanted to get more of a nest egg. With that, I committed myself to the work weekend from hell - one job right after the other, with nearly no sleep betwixt and between.

It began on an early December Saturday morning...

Monday, April 09, 2007

We have returned from Nu Yawk, where I've visited with family and friends, trolled the city some (see the last post), recoiled in horror at some of the gifts bestowed on the little guy that we had to haul back on the plane, in carry-on and in checked baggage (I dare any of y'all to haul a sizeable bubble machine named the Typhoon through security without incident. In fact, I triple-dog dare ya...), and just generally had a nice visit to the northeast. I did my best to temper my stories of the bleak landscape of recovery with loving anecdotes of our home and admonishments to come on down and visit, especially since JazzFest is coming down the pike.

However, I know that to at least one person, I sounded like a Gloomy Gus (or maybe, as Sheckrastos would put it, like Mr Gloomy Pants, but that's really not quite the same). "What will be my breaking point?" I said, listening to myself talk about insurance companies trying to bail out of the Gulf Coast, about idiotic leadership on all levels of government, about the reality of having an evacuation destination set in case of the worst happening again. I got caught up in my words and must have sounded thoroughly despondent. It made our "Come On Down!" talk sound a tad bizarre.

So I've come home after some exhausting plane rides. I got my second wind when I was trolling the little guy around on one of those luggage carts at the airport waiting for Dan to bring the car around, and I carried that burst of energy with me home, where I immediately sat down and trolled the NOLA blogosphere, and it was there, at 11 PM, that I found this post.

And, you know, I'm feeling much better now. Thanks, Dr (?) Roux!

It has also galvanized my resolve. I am now prepared to tell a story of epic (well, epic for the blogosphere) proportions. It's been bumping around in my head for most of the time I've been up in Nu Yawk. My history with that metropolis has been so long, so seductive, so crushing in certain aspects, that I cannot resist taking it on at this point in time. There are risks we are all willing to take in our lives, and I learned, at twenty-two, that my willingness to take on anything and everything at that time in my life was admirable at best and dumber than dumb at worst. On one fateful weekend, it all came together, and I ended up in New Orleans a month later. It'll begin with the next post...

That's all for now. Hope everybody had a happy Easter and/or a Pesach Sameach. I must be excused now, as, through a weird series of events, I am now locked inside my house and must frantically lobby my neighbors for the keys. It's either that or I must wait for Dan to come home from Baton Rouge.

Yep. Home sweet home.

Update: I got hold of my keys from my neighbor, unlocked my door to head out with the little guy, and beheld the return of the pothole from hell. I came back to the house later on in the day and found the pothole filled in, once again, with cement, and the sidewalk in front of my neighbors' repaired as well (it wasn't last time, maybe because it was Mardi Gras and there wasn't time for such frivolity as making street repairs).

Oh, and if anyone in the New Orleans area gets hold of the latest Gambit Weekly, check out Bunny Matthews' Vic and Nat'ly cartoon...bloggers will find it especially relevant. I haven't been able to find an online link to it, otherwise I'd be posting it for all to behold.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A cool vaulted city of cream and green earthenware, like a German beer stein.

-unknown journalist, 1904*

New York City is sensory overload, pure and simple. It stuffs you full of its importance the second you enter city limits, regardless of how you arrive. Its airports will delay the arrival of your flight. Signs at the edge inform you that you cannot turn right on red if you are arriving by car, and the insanity of the vehicular traffic at rush hour will move you to tears of frustration if you haven't experienced it before. Even my first-ever day of riding the subways well over a decade ago was harrowing - on the trip to my destination that day, the train was halted between stations as the conductor told us over the loudspeakers that a body was being removed from the tracks. On the return trip on a completely different train line, the train was stopped twenty blocks before my place of residence because a train before mine had crashed at its station. At least this time the train was stopped at the station with its doors open, because I ended up taking the option of disembarking and I hoofed it on back home.

So, yeah, it's overwhelming. It's a place that can chew you up and spit you out, and it did that to me over ten years ago, when I was working three jobs just to live and my desperation to be a glassworker and live took me down to New Orleans. This giant meat grinder of a city is still doing it, for all of the reasons I've previously discussed...but that doesn't stop us from having some kind of affinity for this place.

We got to know it, Dan and I. The little guy was born here. We made friends here, friends that we still make it a point to visit. I still have family here - my aunt and cousin in Manhattan, my grandparents just outside the city limits in Green Acres...uh...Mill Brook. But nothing really grabbed us more than our wish to shrink this city, to make it deceptively manageable through imprinting its streets into our brain cells, through ingesting the interlocking arteries of the subway lines, feeling every rock and pebble and crack in the sidewalks with our ever-rushing feet.

Dan and I must be certifiable. We have no fear of driving in four of the five boroughs (and the only reason I don't include Staten Island in that assessment is that we never had much cause to be there). The subways are not something for us to dread, either. And, since the little guy is in love with anything on wheels, we tried to take him to one of our favorite family haunts today and failed kind of miserably, we thought. We drove into Queens, parked in our old neighborhood, and caught an R train bound for Brooklyn. After some lengthy visits with former co-workers of Dan's (and current good friends), we walked over to the Transit Museum only to see something that is a rarity. There was a major line headed around the entrance to the decommissioned underground station that houses the exhibits of transit gems such as turnstiles through the ages, a mock-up of a bona-fide MTA bus, and subway cars dating from the turn of the 20th century. Rather than wait on line in the freezing cold (there were snow flurries today - flurries, I tell you!), we chose to take the little guy on another subway ride into Grand Central Terminal, where there is a Museum Annex. And there was a fantastic exhibit there of the designs of Heins and LaFarge, the firm that created the overall look of the Interboro Rapid Transit, circa 1904...but we had to make a fast exit, because an overtired little guy was making a nuisance of himself in the other half of the museum annex - the museum store.

Back on the subway for us, this time on the 7 train.

weepy Little Guy: Daddy, I'm sad (and we know why: we wouldn't buy him this toy train).

Silence from us.

Little Guy: Daddy, I'm sad.


Little Guy: (in a more regular tone of voice) Daddy, ask me why I'm sad!

Oy vey. We're stuck on the number 7 with a real piece of work in my son.

And then we come out of the underground, onto the elevated tracks. The city is laid out before us, stark and slightly cold. Bits of sunlight warm it up a tinge, and my son is transfixed. For a minute or so, before he starts asking us at each stop if we are getting off there, and there, and there, he is staring out the window, at a view that is something to behold.

Who needs a museum?

*the above quote talks about this place, which we unfortunately missed seeing - the station is opened once a year for small tour groups.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

from The Haggadah by Arthur Szyk
Illustration of the Four Questions, the first of which is translated as "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

The pictures haven't been downloaded yet, and the only guy writing anything about it at this moment is Sheckrastos (who is no doubt learning the lyrics to the Mackenzie Brothers' Twelve Days of Christmas - actually, knowing him, he's probably working on living the lyrics...), so I guess I'd better weigh in on my face-to-face adventure with the NOLA blogpocheh before the words get thoroughly overanalyzed, linked to again and again, and made fun of several times over, because those are the kind of wahoos they are, God love 'em.

We walked into Geek Dinner III at Madame Dangerblond's home, heard some strains of James Brown's music coming from within, the little guy said, "Mommy, it's your music!", and immediately made himself at home. I sincerely apologize, Kim, if you are low on your Kentwood water, if you find rocks from your backyard sprinkled liberally thoughout your lovely home, and if the door on your dryer is experiencing fatigue from being opened and closed once too often by an overeager four-year-old. Once he makes himself at home, my son is truly akin to, and happier than, a tornado in a trailer park.

I had the honor of meeting Sophmom, Traveling Mermaid, Sheckrastos and his better and saner half, Dr A., Clay, Cousin Pat from GA, Jeffrey and Menckles, Michael Homan, Oyster, Gentilly Girl, and many others. I explained the joys of Jiffy Pop by a glory hole pilot light and annealer potatoes at 900 degrees Fahrenheit to Mr Clio. I touched base with celcus and his better half on mutual friends. G-Bitch and I shared opinions on what negotiations at the UN would be like if it were entrusted entirely to four-year-olds, and Maitri developed an affinity for my ladies' man of a four-year-old (watch it, honey, my son is dangerous...). I told Editor B about the origins of my first name. I shared some details about my blogging handle with Dr A. And I wished Ashley a little r'fuah shleimah (healing and health) because the big ol' doofus came to the bash sick as a dog, having thoroughly practiced his cough. Ashley, crawl on back into bed, man, and heal thyself.

Heenay matov u'manayim shevet achim gam yachad.

How good it is for brothers (and sisters) to come together, as it is said in my tradition.

Let's do this again very very soon, y'all, when Passover isn't looming in my near near future.

What most of the NOLA blogpocheh don't entirely realize is that they lived another tenet of my tradition with their gathering last night: if you feed them, they will come.