Friday, December 29, 2006

We took my cousin and his friend out for a well-deserved Northern Italian dinner last night. They arrived in New Orleans yesterday, and they and a number of other high-school-aged volunteers have already eaten in the Quarter and helped build a house in the upper Ninth Ward. God bless 'em all.

I only wish we'd been able to shoe-horn the kids into a Metairie restaurant where Saints ballplayer Joe Horn broadcasts his radio show from most Thursday nights, but the 45-minute wait over there was a mighty deterrent. We ended up over at Andrea's restaurant, which Dan and I had repeatedly heard was an excellent eating place, but had never tried out until we walked in with my cousin and his friend. The kids seemed to appreciate it a great deal, singing along with some waiters singing "Happy Birthday" in Italian to someone at a nearby table, talking football and college basketball with us, and laughing and joking around with the little guy in the car on the way back to their hotel. We'll be seeing them tomorrow when they come to our synagogue for services and a big Shabbat dinner, and hopefully, we can get them into a place where they can hear some good live jazz music (like I said before, there aren't many places for folks under 21 to hear live music in this town ) on Saturday night.

Anyone in New Orleans want to open up a teen club just to entertain these great kids? It is the help of their hands, and millions of others, that will help get this city going again. Ain't a little live entertainment the least we can do?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I've written about the famous Harry who gave up the ghost on this town. Today I read about a different famous Harry who is sticking it out for this town and spreading the word on it no matter where he goes.

For those not in the know, Harry Shearer has been a constant voice on The Simpsons, and has acted in movies such as This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and, most recently, For Your Consideration. He is also one of the people committed to rebuilding this city with his words, and with actions to back 'em up.

After reading his words of wisdom in the recent Times-Picayune interview (and I urge you all to read it!), all I can say is, give 'em hell, Harry!


So my son loves listening to the music of James Brown. Turns out he loves the groove of soul music, period. I have experimented with playing him some of the nouveau soul of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and now I'll have to keep seeing what else he likes or dislikes. Much as I myself love the Godfather of Soul's music, I do need some variety.

It was truly, horribly funny when I woke up on Monday morning and flipped through some channels with my son looking for the kids' shows, only to discover that James Brown had died that morning. Dan woke up later than I did, and when he walked in, I told him the news. All Dan could do initially was laugh incredulously. Considering how steeped my son is in the songs on the James Brown: 20 All-Time Greatest Hits album ( I am constantly hearing snatches of "I Got The Feeling" or "The Payback" coming out of the little guy's mouth), this just seemed like some weird cosmic joke on us.

This also seems like a weird way for the Hardest Working Man in Show Business to leave this earth - in a hospital on Christmas. Is this somehow God's version of "Payback"? Maybe the good Lord don't know karate, but He sure know cuh-razy...

Monday, December 25, 2006

I have embarked upon a third job. This past Friday night, I became an interim cantorial soloist at my synagogue. Our cantor up and left early this month, and one other woman and I are the current stopgap in the service of leading services. Our tenure is expected to be either six months or until a contracted, fully ordained cantor is found and convinced to come down to these parts. Whichever bridges need to be crossed...

I was certainly put to the test on Friday night - by my own family.

I was asked to go up to the pulpit on Friday and sing one prayer. Not a problem, right? My husband would be coming back from work early for the 6 PM service in order to look after our son, and he didn't even need to be on time, as I wouldn't be needed on the pulpit right away. It was a choir Shabbat, but if I had to look after my son instead of contributing my voice, well, so be it.

I managed to be there for rehearsal shortly before the service, with the little guy in tow. Despite his occasional pleas for high-tailing it to the kids' playroom, he behaved himself pretty well. He complained again when it was time to go to the chapel and begin the service, but he accepted my explanation as to why he couldn't go to the playroom: "Daddy's not here yet, honey. Please be patient and come with me." A fellow choir member told me he'd heard there was massive traffic coming out of Baton Rouge on the I-10, and Dan was most likely stuck in it.
My heart sank, a little. When the music began and the choir had to stand and sing the first prayer, I had to hold my son in my arms and sing to keep him calm, though he is a growing four-year-old boy and was quite hefty. Edie leaned back after that first song and whispered that she could look after my son while I was soloing, and I breathed a little easier.

Shortly before it was time for me to sing, Dan came in. Relief, finally.

I went up to the pulpit when it was my time, and started in on the prayer. I was in the middle of it when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small person making his way up to the pulpit. I kept singing as my son took my hand, and I tensed a little as I anticipated the tug of war that could well ensue as it usually does whenever he wants me to go someplace while I am trying to talk with other adults or do things that don't directly involve him. The notes kept flowing out of me as I saw some of the synagogue's board members in the first few rows reacting to my son's presence on the pulpit. Somehow, I made it to the end of the prayer, with my son playing peekaboo with congregation members from behind the podium where I stood, and I quickly exited the chapel and went to the playroom with him.

I'd like to say that I saw the hilarity in the whole situation, but all I could see were the two sides of me that had come into conflict. In some ways, I still hadn't changed since before I had given birth- I had put myself out there to do a job, and I was ambitious, still. I also had relied on a support system that had clearly fallen apart. I thought that my job success was in some ways tied to good family management, and to the ability to separate myself from my role as Mommy. I want to engage myself in jobs and activities that give me that distance from my child, in part because I think we both need it. I certainly need that distance.

I got upset in the playroom, thinking about all of this as my son played with the toys. I didn't realize the service was over until Dan came in and asked me why I hadn't come in to the gathering for refreshments and schmoozing after services. I'm ashamed to say that I got upset at him for not paying more attention to our son, that I felt that Dan hadn't valued what I was trying to do. He exploded, saying that he'd already been berated by the choir director and the executive director for the same thing, and that he was sick of being berated about it. He was very sorry about the whole thing.

The overall impression my son and I gave the congregants? I had a great voice, and I was a cool customer under pressure. He is a cute little ham who loves his mommy.

However, my inner conflict still lingers. Edie thinks we need to put the exec. director on the spot about child care during the service, as my son, and other kids his age or younger whose parents want to attend worship services, can't sit through an hour-long service with us. Technically speaking, I was hired on to do Saturday morning services, which is much more manageable for us in terms of the child care tradeoff from me to Dan. Saturday morning went off for me without a hitch or a little boy's hand in mine.

I vacillate still between wanting to control my son for the sake of outward appearances, and letting his behavior hang out a little because I am a mom, after all. It did help that most of the people who witnessed my son's need to be with Mommy were sympathetic and charmed. The rabbi was very impressed, and understanding as well.

Time and experience will have to help me relax on this one, I guess...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"The wheel on my car is broken and is getting fixed," my son's sitter said. "Do you think you could bring him over here, instead of having us come over to your house?"

I consented to this. We'd used these sitters for the little guy twice before and it worked out great. I wasn't about to let this kind of snafu get in the way of some fine dining with Dan, Edie, Justin, and Justine.

So I drove the little guy over at the appointed time to the sitters' apartment house. I say "sitters" because they are a wonderful husband and wife team, who were highly recommended and have worked out well for the little guy and ourselves. They mentioned, when I first met them, that they lived in this place on one of the main drags of the Garden District, but it wasn't until last night that I realized which place it was, exactly.

I have passed and repassed this nondescript place for such a while. So much of the Garden District has recovered pretty well from the storm. There was no flooding there, most of the wind and water damage incurred has been put to rights in the area, and there is even a crew filming just off the street not far from the sitters' place.

What distinguishes this apartment house from all the fancy mansions in its vicinity, however, is the Katrina graffiti it still sports just to the right of its doorway - an unmistakeable "LOOTERS SHOT". A scrubby bush partially concealed it for a time when the weather was better, but that bush has dropped its leaves, revealing the graffiti in all its defiant glory.

I didn't want to ask the sitters what the deal was with the anti-looter slogan; in some ways, I already knew what the deal was. Anyone who is here for any extended length of time can take just one look at the flooded out areas and the smatterings of boarded-up busted businesses and get the background story behind the homemade admonishment. At the same time, however, I was extremely curious about many other current issues surrounding the graffiti as it stands now.

- What is the reasoning for keeping it on the wall over a year later? Is it just laziness? A reluctance to hire painters at a time when anyone in the housing renovation business will most likely be gouging for their time and services? (Believe me, I understand that fear) Is it a subtle (or not-so-subtle) protest that the tourism boosters and the storm amnesiac "sliver by the river" need to remember the times when most of the city was literally all wet, and drowning in agony? That we need to look beyond our little nineteenth-century fiefdoms and work on the ENTIRE city?

-The sitters were ecstatic because they are now former owners of this apartment house in which they live. That's right. I noticed the "For Sale" sign up in the yard a few weeks ago, before I knew our sitters owned the place. I'm happy they got it sold, because it's what they wanted. But I now want to know: what will happen to that graffiti? Did it help increase or decrease the property value? Did the sitters even care? Will the current owners keep it on, or will they join the Garden District's spiffing-up efforts and paint over it?

Two little words, painted big on a building, and this is what they conjure up for me. I should have asked the sitters about all of this, instead of doing the endless speculation I'm doing now, but, in some ways, the answers won't really help. It won't really solve a lot of the problems around these parts. The Road Home program for those wanting to rebuild is more like "a narrow dirt goat-path winding its way up a steep mountain", to paraphrase my husband. We can't even get insurance adjusters to come out in tandem with our property managers to look at our roof properly.

I'm torn between wanting to cover over those words on that wall and keeping them on as a symbol of sorts. If anyone has ever visited the UN in NYC, they have seen the room in which the ceiling is unfinished. Any tour guide will tell you that it isn't going to be finished until there is world peace.

I guess in our case, LOOTERS SHOT could be here until this place has fully risen in some self-sufficient form - or at least a form that's more self-sufficient than it currently is.

Then again, we all need to recover in some way, and shootin' looters ain't gonna help much.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hey, folks, I've got a blogging friend in need.

Normally I wouldn't do this sort of thing, but ever since 8-29-05, I've gotten into the helping friends out thing.

Just go to this link and make a donation. This guy does a real service with his blog and with his beautiful family, and the nasty winds in the Northwest have thrown his whole area for a loop. Just check out that tangle of trees. It looks like major parts of my neck of the woods looked over a year ago.

And I most certainly do NOT want him to experience the joy and nastiness of having to put a duct-taped refrigerator out on the curb. (Okay, things may not be that bad, but being without power for a number of weeks will instill fears in people that will seem strange to those who haven't experienced that kind of situation)

So donate a little in the spirit of the hollerdays. If you have problems with the direct donation link, go to his email, donate through PayPal, and tag your donation as a "Service" donation when prompted. Or just drop him a line and ask what he needs.

Be well, Jay. Stay warm...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I want to take most of this past week, smash it to bits just like a Prince Rupert Drop, sweep all the insanity and the nastiness and the exhaustion up and start again. The nap I just took is a good beginning, bodes well for the new week on its way. Sigh...

It didn't help that Dan was away on a business trip most of this past week. The only part of his trip that I didn't envy was that it was up in the great white north, in Minneapolis. As most folks who have read my recent blog posts know, temperatures in the freezing range and I do not mix. It turned out that the temps. were in the forties up there, so I couldn't even razz Dan about the cold. Sigh again...

I had to endure calls such as this:

Dan-"Hey, we went in to the Mall of America today! And I rode some rollercoasters that would make your Dad queasy!"
Me-"Oh, honey, I wish I were there with you. I love rollercoasters. I can't remember the last time I was on one."
Dan-"Yeah, I wish you could have come along, too, this trip..."

And another lovely call, coming as I am dropping off into exhausted sleep, shortly after putting the little guy to bed:

Dan-"Hey! Guess where I am?"
Me, in a drowsy stupor- "Hell, I don't know - the Walker Art Museum?"
Dan- "Whoo, good guess! You're right! I'm looking at the TV cello right now."
Me- "Oh, the one by Nam June Paik? Dammit, I really wish I could have come with you!!!!"
Dan- "Yeah, we missed the Walker last time we were in Minneapolis because it was being completely redone. I wish you could be here, too."
Me- "Dammit, dammit..."

One last one, during my teaching hours:

Dan- "Hey, I'm in Ikea. Just wanted to let you know, I found a bunk bed I think the little guy would like...and it's only sixty inches off the ground for the top bunk! Not too high."
Me- "Oh, that's nice, hon. But I'm not too keen on Ikea's kiddie furniture. I think it's not built too well."
Dan- "Well, I'll take down the information on the bed and we'll look it up online."

I'm ashamed to say it, but I even wished I was wandering around Ikea with him. I wanted to eat the Swedish meatballs and lingonberries in the cafeteria with him. All I had on the brain was escape.

But I couldn't do it this past week. I was Mom, responsible, home-bound mom. I had to get the little guy off to school each morning. I had to work my tail off four days this week at the school where I am only contracted to teach two days, all because the Hanukkah pageant costume and background decorations, and the hallway decorations, fell on my shoulders. I had to get the kids to do a lot of it, which they did, but then I had to handle all the rest of the details. I freaked out over having to lead services at my synagogue this past Saturday morning, only to find I wasn't needed for it when I walked in (oh, the relief!!!). And I am just exhausted and cranky. I hate feeling this way.

I now know why some parents run from their obligations. All of this stuff - work, child care, school, preparing meals, taking care of pets, keeping things reasonably tidy- can come to a head all at once and drive one insane. I have essentially been a single parent for this past week, and I feel awful.

Wasn't the so-called "women's movement" supposed to move all of this stuff around for women's benefit? To spread household stuff around fairly evenly between married partners (or whichever partners are involved in a relationship with offspring)? Well, it hasn't worked well at all. And that is the absolute truth.

What happens with me is that I go in and out of minding it and not minding it. That is what I am reduced to. This is what I saw all my life, what I never wanted to have happen to me, and here I am in the thick of it. I wish I could say that there are times when it is all very worth it, but I have real problems seeing that half the time. I get blind with work and pain, and it is hard to see the worth.

I want to see it. I want to be healthy in spirit. There are times, however, when this is a real battle. Plus, I have been taught how wrong it is to say how I really feel, that it doesn't help, that it doesn't get things done. That kind of teaching hasn't completely left me, either.

So it leaves me with telling it to my husband and not being able to effectively communicate it, and having him want to solve all my problems, when all I want him to do is just listen. It's a tad easier to just write about it in a post here, but I risk sounding like a candidate for Oprah or Jerry Springer. I've opted for the posting largely because I just haven't written in a while. But I'm not a big fan overall of being a true confessions type of girl. I'm depressed enough as it is.

I also know a large part of this week's depressive state comes from working and mommyhood all at the same time, minus Dan. Aaaaaaargh. Ouch. Yeeeesh. I don't recommend it for the faint at heart. I will only be crawling through it all because I need to for the benefit of the little guy.

And I would like to see the Walker Art Center before I die. And ride another rollercoaster at an amusement park.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Whoo-eee, it's my 34th boithday.

And after a long day of getting the kids at the school where I teach art to essentially paint scenery for their Hanukkah pageant without killing each other or dousing each other with paint (same difference, the way some of these kids carry on), I'm exhausted.

Reminds me of my birthday eleven years ago...just a little...

As an assistant studio tech, I had to be in the UrbanGlass public access glass studio in Brooklyn at the crack of dawn to warmup the blast furnaces and get it all going for those folks who had rented time for that day. I get to the building, a former Brooklyn Academy of Music edifice that housed the studio on its third floor, only to find that the elevator for the place is broken. The only stairwell I can see is closed in by an alarmed door. Whoops...

I got out of the building, found a nearby pay phone, and called the acting head studio manager. His wife hauled him out of bed, I told him what the deal was, asked him if there was another way to get upstairs without tripping any alarms, and he let out a haaaard sigh and said:

"I don't know what else to tell you. You're gonna have to break in."

Oh, joy,

"Ooooooh-kay. Thanks, Kevin," I said.

I hung up the phone, walked back to the building, and found one of the studio office interns in the hallway. I was sooo relieved I didn't have to go through this whole thing alone. She located a crowbar from a construction crew working on the second floor, pried the door open, and we both ran like hell up the steps to shut off the alarms that were ringing in our ears.

I called the police once I disarmed the system, told them what had happened, and they said,

"What alarm?"

Some days are just like that. Even birthdays.

So ho-hum. I entered the world today. And after that, someone should have told me at an impressionable young age that anything goes...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I truly weep for Poppy Z. over here in some ways...

But I am glad she's linked her site to this lovely list of talking points, because sometimes this is an issue. Especially when there are more and more clueless people wandering the earth now that Katrina and its aftermath is not a hot topic in the media, unless the pundits are intent on lambasting the country's current leadership.

I'm feeling a bit melancholy myself, largely because birthday #34 is tomorrow. And it really hit me this year that I never really mapped out milestones by age for myself. I guess mentally my age is that of a fourteen-year-old, in that I am constantly thinking that life is beginning just around the corner. My impulse, when things are going well, is for me to just go with it for a while and see what happens. I've always seemed to have just enough confidence in myself for things to work out.

It occurs to me now, however, that the way I lived once is not all that different from the way Poppy Z. is thinking about her life right now:

Among other things, I'm undergoing a pretty major period of career disillusionment. I feel as if I've spent twenty years busting my ass for nothing. Well, not nothing by any means; I've written things I'm proud of, met a lot of amazing people, and traveled to places I'd never have had the chance to otherwise ... but right at this moment, none of that is going to buy me a house. As I told a friend, if it comes down to a choice between moving to a cheaper housing market or living on the second floor of a gutted shithole in the worst neighborhood in New Orleans, you can bet we'll be in the shithole. I'm just alarmed to realize that's becoming a very real possibility. Alarmed, and angry. I feel as if I should be able to afford a decent home at this point in my life, as if I've worked hard enough and achieved sufficient success that this should be, if not a given, at least not a total pipe dream. You may be excused for thinking that the problem is at least partly due to my poor money management skills, and you'd be at least partly right. Still, I've gotten paid very well for a couple of books, ridiculously little for others, and if you average it out over the course of twenty years, I've never made what most people would consider a living wage. And yet I earn way more than most full-time writers. I'm one of the lucky ones, or have been. Writers aren't even the poor relations of the entertainment industry; we're the crumpled paper in its garbage cans.

You start spouting off like this, and somebody will inevitably twist your words: "Oh, she's just in it for the money." I've no patience with that ignorant, mouth-breathing, submoronic attitude. Only a complete fool becomes a writer for the money, and I'm not a complete fool. I just want to be able to live with some dignity, to take care of my family, to have a little fun. To be paid reasonably well for something a fair number of people seem to think I do reasonably well, just as a chef or a doctor or a plumber is paid for his work.

And aren't writers and chefs important to New Orleans? (Doctors and plumbers are too, but as far as I know, they're doing all right.) We hear every day about well-known musicians, irreplaceable treasures of the city, who are living in Lafayette or Houston or Mississippi because they can't afford housing in New Orleans. Now Chris (DeBarr, her husband)and I must fight to keep from becoming part of that diaspora. And we're only the more visible ones affected by this; countless line cooks, busboys, bartenders, waiters, cleaners, cashiers, postal workers, and other poor-to-middle-class working people have been priced out of the housing market here, with an obvious effect on the quality of restaurant menus and service, the ability to easily do one's grocery shopping or receive one's mail, the running of a thousand little necessities people elsewhere take for granted.

Chris and I can probably figure out a way to rebuild our life in New Orleans. We're literate, we're smart, we're fairly resourceful when we put our heads together, and each of us is good at something that most people can't do on a professional level. By and large, though, the human infrastructure of New Orleans cannot afford to live here anymore. I don't know what that's going to do to the city, and it scares me.

Once upon a time, I was so hell bent on being a glassworker, so much so that I chained myself to a job for well over five years being massively overworked and criminally underpaid just so that I could work with the material. As far as the criminally underpaid status went, though, New Orleans was the one town where one could still live on not very much and do the kind of thing that I was doing. You could be a writer here and not starve. You could develop your chops (so to speak) as a burgeoning professional chef in this area. Hell, if I hadn't met Dan, allowed the thought and then the act of marriage to permeate my being, and then turned around and had the little guy (which I never really thought I would do), I would be sharing Poppy Z.'s fears and depression.

As it is, my husband, always money-conscious and cheapskate-ish, is constantly harping on the rising costs of our energy bills, on the fact that rents are rising all around us, and on the fact that our neighborhood is going condo crazy. Then this congressional runoff comes and goes around here and highlights just how disgruntled the possible voting public is with the status quo (only 23% turnout at the polls, which is dismal) and how idiotic and backward the voters of this district really are (ol' "Dollar Bill" Jefferson got reelected after all, with 54% of the vote). Ouch.
Yuck. Ewwwww.

Did I really want to be here at nearly 35? Living in a ruined city with a four year old and a husband with a three hour round trip daily commute to his job? Enter that fourteen-year-old brain again: I never really thought about it. Until I found it in New Orleans ten years ago, I simply wanted life to be like what I imagined it was like in NYC's Soho in the late sixties and early seventies - cheap, a tad out of control, but sustaining enough that I could do what I liked without asking my parents for money.

Now that I have a nuclear family of my own, I am a tad more concerned about my family's future - and it is forcing my brain to grow up some. I'm jumping into the elementary art teaching thing in part because I need to get out into that workforce again for my family's future's stake. It has been trying most recently because lately my son has been sick with colds or conjunctivitis, there was one day when the boiler in his school building wouldn't come on on a freezing cold day, so everyone was sent home, and that infamous full day of teacher in-service at his school went into effect this past week - and it all really messed with my teaching obligations. In truth, I had lived my life up to this point wishing to avoid such conflicts, and now my fourteen-year-old brain was saying, "See? This is one of the many reasons why you vowed at an early age that you would never be tied down by a husband or kids. You saw what happened when your mom tried to balance work and family, and you decided not to have the latter. What are you doing?"

I found the courage this past week to say,"Suck it up, you teenage queen. I'm an old married broad now, and I cannot lose my head over some missed work days. The little guy needs me now, so the rest of the world will just have to turn without my skills for a bit. And hey, fourteen-year-old me - go think about something or someone besides yourself for a change."

Poppy Z., I love you dearly. These days, you are one of the true voices of this town and you deserve to be here in a lovely high-ceilinged palace that suits you and your husband. Though you are hurting physically and mentally, please buck up a bit more and try to hang on to whatever will get you through this dark age in which New Orleans seems to be immersed. This is a difficult thing to do, I know, and I know you are up for the task. But this rebuilding of an entire infrastructure begins with ourselves. There is only so much each of us can do, but we have to do it well and to the best of our abilities. And we always have to keep it in the back of our heads that stuff will happen. We just gotta deal.

It also helps that you are way older than me mentally, most likely. Maybe this year my brain will reach fifteen or so. I could even hope for twenty-one...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Overheard some snatches of kid conversation in my art classroom concerning the meaning of the phrase "A Great Miracle Happened There" as it applies to their lives.

Pretty deep stuff for seven-to-nine-year-olds to discuss, huh?

The phrase itself is a translation of the acronym of letters on the different sides of the dreidel, the Hanukkah spinner which kids and adults alike use to gamble for gelt by the light of the menorah. The miracle is one that happened a couple thousand years ago or so, when the small band of Maccabee zealots defeated a massive Syrian Greek army and regained control (at least, religious control) of the Temple in Jerusalem. Or, depending on which of the rabbinic sages you subscribe to, the miracle is that surrounding a small cruse of oil that was found in the the temple while it was being cleansed of pagan objects. It was the only oil left to light the eternal light in the temple, and it was only enough for one day...but miraculously, it burned in the lamp for eight days.

Anyhoo, I overheard the kids talking about what the phrase means to them personally while they were slaving over their dreidel costumes they had to make for their Hannukah pageant. It concerned what the dreidel letters say on Israeli dreidels - they are translated to say "A Great Miracle Happened Here", because it did happen there, after all.

"Oh, a great miracle happened here!" said one of the kids.

"No, a great disaster happened here," another retorted.

"No, the storm was a great miracle!" the first kid insisted. "My house got redone because of it!"

Hey, if kids can find the bright side in times like these...


I myself am looking for a good way to get Hanukkah across to the little guy, who, for the first time in his schoolgoing days, is confronted with our predominantly Christian culture every day in the classroom and school, which, although it is a public school, has a lit-up tree prominenetly displayed in the front hall, and there is a small tree in his own classroom. I think I'm going to drag in a menorah or something just because.

Oh, not just because. It's because I don't want to have conversations like this with my son:

"Mommy, I want my birthday to be on Christmas next year, okay?" (His birthday is in December, just not on the 25th)

"Honey, your birthday is the day you were born, and you were not born on Christmas day."

"Please can't it be on Christmas? Pleeeeease??"

I didn't want to go into depth with him on the whole Christmas thing. It may have been because he perceived he could possibly get more presents if his birthday were on Christmas. It may be that he wants a tree in the house, which is coming in over my dead body. I guess I need to speak with his teacher and see what the deal is about, and talk about it with him a little more, like I did in the library the other day:

"Mommy, let's read this Muppet book!" he said, pulling out The Muppet Babies' Christmas Book (or some such thing - it had the Muppets on it and it was Christmas-themed).

"No, honey, I'm not going to read it to you," I said.

"Please can you read it to me? Pleeease??" (I am proud the little guy is so polite, but still...)

"Sweetheart, I'm not going to read it to you, because we are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah. Here, I'll find a story about it for you," I said, running for the stacks as though my life depended on it.

I guess now I need to plaster our walls and door with Hanukkah decorations and flashing strings of dreidel lights. My dad used to joke that one of these years, he'd lay out a menorah in Christmas lights on the front lawn to counter all the holiday displays in neighboring yards.

If anyone has a lead on a giant inflatable menorah snow globe, just drop me a line...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Well, first I've got the freezing temperatures breathing down my neck.

Then, I open up my two favorite New Orleans publications and behold the latest news. And it sends a bit of a chill down my spine.

Exhibit A: This week's Gambit article by Clancy DuBos on the aptly titled "Suck Index".
Sometimes we all wish there were some sort of meter to measure how badly we think things are going, and to then apply those opinions to effect some sort of change. Polls such as the UNO Quality of Life survey are supposed to have an effect, right? The city leaders need to pay attention to this one, especially to the high percentages (higher %s meaning poorer ratings) given to the availability of housing, the condition of roads and streets ( and you thought my kvetching about potholes and traffic lights was just my personal madness, eh?), and the control of abandoned housing. Check out the rest of the list, and read that note at the beginning of the article about "excellent" being eliminated from the polling choices. Even the pollsters are harsh realists...

Exhibit B: First the Virgin Megastore bailed on the French Quarter. Then, to add big business insult to corporate injury, Tower Records closes its doors - and holds all local musicians' recorded music hostage. Moral of this story? Support the local good guys instead, like the Louisiana Music Factory, Basin Street Records, and the Tipitina's Foundation and Save NOLA music (just check out the LMF Links page and click away). Free the CDs! Free the CDs!

And now, you'll have to excuse me while I try to keep warm...

Monday, December 04, 2006

All I want for the holidays is heat for my house. And sanity.

The weather has changed down here. It's a great deal colder. And becuase we don't want to give in to paying Entergy any more than we have to, this house of ours is cold.

As a result of such cold, I've been very testy and have the urge to snap everyone's head off. Even, I'm ashamed to say it, the little guy's. God bless him, he sees that I am on the emotional warpath and suggests that I might like to hear a song. When I tell him I don't want to hear it right now, he pouts and says I hurt his feelings. Then I am forced to explain very carefully and sanely that I'm very sorry that I did so and I just need the quiet. Only then did I almost feel better. Almost.

I hate the cold. I always have.

When my family moved us up to central Pennsylvania after many years in Houston, my room became known as "The Sauna", because I would turn up the baseboard heat in there to eighty degrees. The only time I can remember being halfway comfortable in cold weather was when I was pregnant. That's the time when I was the human incubator, when heat and humidity was torture for a short stretch of the summer, when ConEd could have hooked me up to the apartment building in which I lived at the time and I would have saved everyone loads of dough on their heating bills. Aside from that time, I am still convinced that the colder temperatures absolutely stink.

Seasonal Affective Disorder? I am a case study. First it begins with the onset of Daylight Savings. Then the temperatures drop, and it has begun. I am a reptile masquerading as a mammal - I just cannot get warm enough. I cannot get enough sun. I even have a pet that shares my seasonal convictions - my dog Gilda hates wet weather to begin with (I always imagine her doing an inward "Eww, eww, ewwww," with every paw in contact with wet pavement or grass), and her four years in a climate in which it actually snows threw her for a loop. I'll never forget those days in which I opened the door for us to embark on her daily walk, we both beheld the snow on the ground, and she would turn and give me a look that said, "WHY are you doing this to me?"

So wish me luck on surviving yet another winter. And pray for my family, too. They are going to need all the help they can get with me around, their own personal weather Grinch.

Is there any way I can pull a Bill Murray and steal Punxsutawney Phil so that the groundhog never, ever sees his shadow again? Maybe that will help...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Whoops! I made a mistake in my last post. El Hellish Pothole is now in Day 37 of its existence (Day 35 on 11-30) on our street.

And check out the date! I didn't blog yesterday! Free at last, free at last...

Though I have to admit, my fingertips were twitching like mad to type something, anything on my blog yesterday.

I am truly amazed at my powers of self control. I really CAN stop anytime I want.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Sure.