Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In light of this senator's comments, I find it coincidental that the Times-Pic has published an article on this exhibit, which is on display close to Ground Zero. The people I know in the New York area must see this. Especially poignant quote from the article: "...as she drove around devastated New Orleans neighborhoods, she found herself 'trapped in the grief on the street.' " Ain't that living in New Orleans, circa 2007.

Speaking of living here: this series on a street closure just blocks from my home just burns me up. I am increasingly getting the feeling that all of New Orleans is the South Bronx of the 21st century, and we who live here are simply going to have to cope with that fact. Nationally known politicos are already set to grandstand in some of this city's most neglected areas, and if the visits of Presidents Carter and Reagan to the Bronx in the late 70's - early 80's are any sort of indication, all of us who live here will have to brace ourselves for these visits full of sound and fury that signify nothing. The signifying must come from us, the citizens of this city.

In a teeny way, I shot a minie ball for change this morning when I saw one of these PHKs right by my local park, and I observed two fellows struggling to get into a rental car parked just behind the big machine. I asked them if they needed help, and they said they needed a coat hanger, since they'd been locked out of the car. I ran home to get one and I put in a plug for them to plug the pothole from hell on my street when they got a chance. So here's hoping they return. If and when they do, and I am there, they're getting a king cake from me, I can tell you that.

Every little bit helps. Got to create your own hope sometimes...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Have you found the beat yet?

I myself am still looking for it, here and there. There are stretches of my life that seem to be free and easy - and then the syncopation happens, and I trip up a little, trying to find my way. Something wormed its way inbetween the steady beats, and I have to go with it, or else I'll fall behind.

I have the beat in mind because of the Savion Glover performance I saw last night, his only one in New Orleans. There's a man who has found the beat in some of the most unlikely places. If you haven't heard of, or taken in, his latest show, it is a tap performance complete with some incredible live string musicians playing Vivaldi, Shostakovich, Bach, and some other classical selections. The grand finale of the night is when each musician shines in an improvisational sparring with Glover's fleet feet, and a few jazz musicians are added to the mix to come together on a "Stars and Stripes 4 Ever" Savion Glover style. Glover leads it all as conductor, dancer, funky metronome - you name it, and his feet - his entire body, even - are there and then some.

Afterwards, my husband dismissed it as "not too different from what Gene Kelly might have done". My husband didn't get it.

Much as I love Gene Kelly, what Glover is doing is different. Gene Kelly never made me think too much. He was a great dancer in a highly formulaic context. And he did it well. Savion Glover, however, is trying to push the formulas around, and he's following that beat wherever it takes him. I can't say that Gene Kelly has lifted me up in the same way as Savion Glover has, either.

I began thinking about the beat near the end of the performance. I thought about what relevance it had for my life and for others lives. I tried to get at why Glover's truly mind-bending tap was making me think this way, only to find that the thoughts had been there all along. All I'd found was a vehicle.

Earlier this week, I presented a re-worked board game for my religious school students to play. The kids had to roll a colored die and move their playing pieces to the color rolled on the die. There were certain spaces on the board that, if a player's game piece landed on them, that player would be asked questions about basic Jewish law and the Jewish holidays. Since these were first graders, I tried to make the questions simple in content and format. They got a good number of the questions that pertained to Jewish law, but when it came to the Jewish holidays, they weren't so sharp.

I talked it over with Dan and Edie, who said that fill-in-the-blank type questions, unless they were structured as multiple-choice ones, were tough for first graders anyway. I told the education director at the school about it, and she said it was because many of these kids didn't get the reinforcement of the religious school teachings back at their own homes. I'm now seeing it as a combination of the two.

So one of these things - the way the game is played - is within my realm of change. I need to go with the learning beat of the kids I am teaching. The other thing, the reinforcement at home, is tougher.

It's tougher because I can understand where the parents are coming from, and yet, as a teacher, I'm a tad concerned that these kids are getting the idea that Judaism is nothing more than another subject in school. Personally, I can understand that tug-of-war, but as a teacher, I rail against it on a quasi-regular basis. I think I've found some sort of beat regarding our religious life, but then a major Christian holiday comes around, such as Christmas, or, in these parts, Mardi Gras, and then I fall right out of step. Mark Twain may have once observed that "the religious element has been pretty much knocked out" of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but the origins of it are still readily apparent. Once again, I will have to explain why we don't observe Lent, and I will do my best to keep up the secular Judaism that we practice.

There was a time when most Jewish people simply left town when Mardi Gras time came, largely because it was a realm in which tacit favoritism and discrimination was practiced. Most Jews were left out of the celebrations and the membership of the krewes such as Comus, Momus, Proteus, and Rex, largely because they were considered to be out of the loop as far as self-styled WASP carnival royalty was concerned...not to mention prejudice in general. As it is, after an anti-discrimination ordinance was passed in the early 1990's, two of the above mentioned krewes are still not parading, preferring to hold their own private parties rather than supply a list of their members to the city for a parade permit.

To outsiders, Mardi Gras celebrations are simply another excuse to party - which is not bad. The parade themes are not particularly religious. It's all good clean fun, going to a parade. Even the executive director of our synagogue is a captain in a superkrewe. The general attitude over the past twenty years or so - even longer if the entire history of Carnival is considered - has become that of, if we can't join 'em, we'll get together ourselves over here and do the same thing, with our own variations and in our own way. There's a couple of subkrewes in the French Quarter's Krewe du Vieux - one of them named the Krewe du Jieux - that are microcosms of this attitude in action.

But none of this means a thing if you have no clue of where you come from. I guess that's what I fear for these kids I'm teaching - that they are missing what makes them different. That their families aren't cluing them in enough for their partaking of American society to really make a difference. If their parents aren't fully cognizant of this in their own homes, then how can the kids be made more aware?

Yes, we are indeed tripping along in this life, trying to find that beat. Every time it seems there is a blueprint, a set of rules for us to follow, a series of bars within the music throws us off. I guess I am slightly content with the fact that it's taken Savion Glover twenty-some-odd years to get to where he is. It means that we all have to keep working.

I simply question what it is exactly that we are all working with ...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I was unconsciously looking for something. Something that would take me out of whatever doldrums I've been in for the past week or so. My doldrums began a little after the march on City Hall, I think, and has continued with the Saints' loss this past Sunday. Once again, our local free paper hits some nails on the head - we New Orleanians do have to keep the pressure on City Hall concerning crime. My personal favorite article in the paper states the obvious, but does it so well - "...no, Ray Nagin cannot borrow a page from Sean Payton's book. He wouldn't know how to read it. The rest of us, however, the citizens of New Orleans, should take a lesson from Payton. We are the ones who must lead New Orleans now."

Duh, and, uh...duh.

So where did I try to find some kind of solace? Which diversion, among the many I have to choose from, did I go ahead and tumble into for a bit?

Try Ray Davies.

I am now listening to John Hiatt's Master of Disaster album as an antidote to Ray Davies' Other People's Lives. I've moved on from the Hiatt to some Sharon Jones. I can still handle some early Kinks' music, but barely. I want to take Davies' unauthorized autobio, X-Ray, and toss it out on the street somewhere, but it's a library book, and I'll incur fines.

The problem isn't that any of this isn't good - it is. Scary good. Davies' autobiography is a great take on his early Kinks years, and it reads a bit like a suspense novel. It is roughly seductive - in every sense of the word roughly. It ropes any unsuspecting reader into the early life of this thoroughly insecure, eccentric, talented-on-the-order-of-genius, over- and sidewise- and undersexed man-child and father, and it shakes said reader to the core. I ran out and got a Kinks' Ultimate Collection dual CD set and Other People's Lives in part because of the book, but also because of this article.

I had no clue Davies had decided to head to New Orleans as a part of the process of finding himself outside of the Kinks entity he'd been in for approximately two-thirds of his life. Having read X-Ray, I can't help but think that he'd also decided to confront his love-hate relationship with America head-on in making the decision to head down here. I'm damn sorry he got shot, but I also get the feeling he had, and still has, a real affection for the city.

Well, Ray, although you came out with a great first-ever solo album, and although you claim that the songs on it were mostly done before your NOLA trauma, I may have to set the CD aside for a while. The art and the photos on it are lush with the humidity-drenched greenery this area positively bursts with most of the year. Some of the best songs on the album move me to tears because they remind me of the way things had been around here - and they eerily foreshadow some of what has already come to these parts. It may have been a good thing you went back to north London, anyhow, because you unfortunately share a name with our ineffectual walking id of a mayor.

I shoulda known better than to find any kind of solace in a life such as yours, man. Whoops. Bad on me.

I instead found a little bit of uplift later on in the day, unintentionally, when I was telling Dan about the little guy's latest inquiries concerning his next airplane trip, which is coming up shortly after Mardi Gras. My son stumbled out of bed this morning, ate four spoonfuls of his grits, and noticed Dan's road atlas sitting on the dining table. Dan had recently made plane reservations online for a trip out to see my in-laws, and my son remembered the talk of going on airplanes.
And thus, the third degree, little guy style, began:

LG - Mommy, are we going on the plane today?
Me - No, we're going on the plane next month.
LG - Is it next month now?
Me - No, this month is January. We're leaving in February.
LG - pause
LG - When will it be next month?
Me - In another week.
LG - Are we going on the plane then?
Me - No, we're going on the plane near the end of the month, after Mardi Gras.
LG - pause
LG - When are we flying to Canada?
Me - We're not flying to Canada next month. We're going to California.
LG - Oh, to see Grandma and Grandpa?
Me - Yes.
LG - Are we flying there next week next month?
Me - No, we're flying there at the end of next month, after Mardi Gras.
LG - When's Mardi Gras?
Me - Next month.

And on, and on, and on...

Dan said I should have just told the little guy "February 20th" and left it at that. Sometimes he just has NO clue...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I got angry the other day. Angry at life in general. So angry that I wanted to lash out at something or someone. So, instead of becoming abusive wife and mommy, I instead ran around the house like the crazy I was and began cleaning the hell out of my living room. As part of my cleaning therapy, I dug out one last box of books that hadn't been unpacked and emptied it. There were many sports books in the box I unpacked, among them W.P. Kinsella's short story collection, The Thrill of the Grass.

Most people know Kinsella's work because of Shoeless Joe, the novel on which Field of Dreams was based. I'm glad he got a good amount of attention for that one, but he's written so much more than just that novel. Other masterful works, such as The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and his other short story collections, have been overlooked as a result of one novel of his being made into a whopper of a film, and that's a shame.

Thrill happens to contain one short story that I always taunt Dan with, one that I have had trouble getting out of my head in these heady, sport-soaked days in my city. It's the story of one major league manager who has been having these dreams. His team has been clawing its way through most every hurdle through the long baseball season, and along the way, in the manager's dream world:

...the scenes were much the same: a conference table, God at the head, white light, each time a different assortment of people begging. Some were polite, some were demanding...It struck Al Tiller that all he heard was pleading, whining, outright requests. He supposed that was what God must have come to expect. To Al Tiller prayers had always seemed to be an extremely self-centred pastime.

Initially, the manager thinks that these dreams are just dreams, until he sees things on the field that shouldn't be happening, subtle and not-so-subtle things that make him wonder about his dreams, and about how his decisions will affect the future.

As the seriousness of the situation became clear to him he was tempted to surrender his honour, to work toward losing rather than winning. He knew it was much easier than people imagined for a manager to influence the outcome of a baseball game.

Now here's the thing, folks. A fellow NOLA blogger is cluing people in to Stephen Colbert's shtick on the NFL conference championships (i.e., why Colbert is rooting for the Saints), and after I laughed my head off, I thought about the story in Thrill. Why?

"I appreciate your interest," God said. "I want to assure you that I hold the Chicago Cubs in highest esteem. I have listened to your entreaties and considered the matter carefully from all angles. I am aware of how long it has been since the Cubs have won a pennant. I think you should know that when the Cubs next win the National League Championship, it will be the last pennant before Armageddon..."*

Sad to say, all I can think now is, what kind of hand does God really have in the Saints' season? And what are the implications for New Orleans, if not the Gulf Coast, if not the world? Huh? Huh?

Now you see why I taunt Dan, the Cubs fan, with this tale every so often.

I just hope that Sean Payton isn't having any creepy, earth-shaking dreams.

*all boldface quotes from "The Last Pennant Before Armageddon", from The Thrill of the Grass by W.P. Kinsella.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My days as a spectator of sports actually began in my twenties, when Dan began courting me by bringing me to restaurants and concerts, going to movies with me, and, when summer came, taking me to see the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs baseball team. I began to pay more attention to baseball in general, amassing a baseball library (which I still have - you can't revisit classics such as Ball Four and Veeck As In Wreck too much, in my opinion), and revisiting dormant tendencies towards Mets fanaticism (what can I say? I grew up in Houston, and memories of '86 still roll around in my head. The Astros were a letdown, but that Mets team was something else. Never been anything like it, and, because Fred Wilpon couldn't believe the badass monster he'd created and hurriedly dismantled it, there probably never will be anything like it ever again...).

Basketball? Through Dan, once again, I get a good dose of college basketball, especially in the 2004-2005 season and the March madness that ensued when his beloved Illini made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tourney. Still and all, it never took hold of my imagination like baseball did. Bookwise, the only books I have read about basketball that have captured my heart as much as the baseball books are In These Girls, Hope Is A Muscle, Pat Summitt's Raise the Roof, and John Feinstein's A March To Madness and The Punch.

I now come to football. Football has been insidious in my life. I grew up in Texas, for crying out loud, the footballing-est of all the states in this country. Football was a fact of life. It just couldn't be avoided. I didn't have to seek it out at all, really. My mom is a University of Tennessee alum, second generation, and since my dad went to a small school in upstate New York, our college football allegiances leaned towards UT ("the original UT", as Mom puts it, because we were in Texas). NFL was easy, and not so easy - it was the Oilers for me. Easy because we lived in Houston, not so easy because the team wasn't easy to love. It broke my heart when they up and moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, especially since the giant light-up scoreboard in the Astrodome was ripped out just so that the Oilers could stay put, and they still moved. Ungrateful jerks...

So I moved to New Orleans after four months struggling to live in NYC, and one of the first things I got caught up in was the Saints fever that grips this town come football season. Football in general is unavoidable in this town because of the Superdome, first and foremost. Many Super Bowl games have been hosted in the Dome. Many college bowl games call the Dome their home. Tulane plays its home games there. The place is tailor made for football. So for forty years, Saints fans and followers of the teams fortunes (mostly bad fortunes, but hey...) have watched offseason moves with intense scrutiny. Players and coaches had Saint savior status pinned on them, to no avail. Tom Benson was thoroughly reviled on a regular basis for wanting to permanently relocate the Saints elsewhere. People who had season tickets to the Saints were mildly pitied as each season went on, but it was still nice to know them personally, because you knew you could attend a game occasionally, since the team wasn't so good that the season tix holder HAD to attend every one.

I kept following the team off and on when Dan and I left for New York. I followed NFL games in general off and on, and we'd attend the Super Bowl parties our synagogue in Queens would hold in one of their ballrooms, with a big screen TV and loads of food - and with all the women sitting in the back talking amongst themselves, except for little ol' me, watching the game along with the guys.

Dan and I moved back down here at a time when football is the least of most people's worries here...and at best, it is a diversion.

This season's Saints have provided one hell of a diversion. Season ticket holders are now worshipped. Schoolkids dress in black and gold every Friday to help cheer this team on. Citizens are clamoring for the Saints to enter local politics, since they would most likely do a better job than the yahoos we have in office now. Choruses of "WHO DAT! WHO DAT! WHO DAT SAY DEY GONNA BEAT DEM SAINTS!" can be heard all over the Gulf Coast.

Our hopes are pinned on this team, because in these days of recovery, hope on some days has been waaaay too much to hope for. The Saints are showing people here that even the most lost of causes can be found once again, and can even rise like a phoenix from the ashes. No, this season won't rebuild houses or lives necessarily, but, to paraphrase Julian Bond:

from where we stand
We can only see black and gold
And fleurs-de-lis.
But sometimes we hear Green Day and U2
Singing, "The Saints are Coming",
Then we don't mind struggling a little longer.

Yeah, I'm caught up in it, too. I'm gonna order up another black and gold king cake for the game this coming weekend. I'm gonna kick back, watch the game with some friends, and see if Fox commits any more FCC violations during its broadcast. I'm gonna cheer like a crazy woman for what has truly become America's team, if not America's phoenix.

Geaux Geaux Saints!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happy birthday to this blog!

It has certainly taken on a life of its own, and it has sucked me into cyberspace like nothing else has. Still not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I do know that I am compelled to keep writing.

The latest:

I suppose some of you have been wondering what has happened to the pothole from hell on my street. It's still there, folks, and the repeated drive-overs from passing cars have succeeded in displacing a large amount of the gravel filler that was poured in. A big-shot politico needs to drive over it superfast (hopefully, on the way to solving the city's crime problems) and suffer some car damage real soon. Barring that, I saw one of these contraptions on the street in the Garden District earlier today, and I'm hoping against hope that we'll see it on our street soon. Who knows, maybe a Carnival krewe will dress up a spray-injection patcher as a float and give it the respect and acclaim normally reserved for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Hey, PotHole Killers - get some PHK whistles shaped like your trucks into production ASAP!

Oh, and for extra fun, play the game on their website.

Yesterday, after a lovely time with my son at the zoo, I began to get weepy over the dishes in the sink. The day before, when I was bathing the little guy, I found some scaly stuff on his scalp. I asked my husband to take a look, largely to confirm that I wasn't nuts, and I made the mistake of asking his opinion on what he thought it could be.

"I don't know," he said, and added, with the utmost of tact, "It could be cancer or dandruff. I have no idea."

"Thanks a lot," I said, offended. "that's real sensitive." God, was I mad at him. Shouldn't he have some clue? Some comforting words? I was freaking out here and all he could suggest was that our son had either a nasty disease or a fairly benign cosmetic problem. I tried to relax, once Dan left for his band rehearsal, and my panic subsided...only to return late the next afternoon, while I was washing the dishes and convincing myself that I was a bad mommy for not seeing this crud on his head sooner. Dan came home, intending to go to another rehearsal, but he saw how upset I was, and, bless him, volunteered to stay at home and look up the symptoms of the little guy's mysterious head flakes.

WebMD was pretty useless in regards to the specifics of scalp diseases, so Dan called up the Health A to Z site (when I saw the URL, all I could think in my hysterical state was that Dan had called up Health At Oz - what the hell was that? Emerald City humbug medicine? Pay no attention to those quacks behind the curtain!) and let me just say that it is exhausting being het up about your child's health, but it is another thing entirely being a "backseat hypochondriac", as Dan has termed it. If you're always upset about the health of a loved one, it means that you must carry around a mental Merck Index in your head so that you can blow any and all symptoms out of proportion accordingly. Call me a bad mom on this one, but I just can't do that. Especially after seeing some of the pictures of the skin diseases Dan had managed to call up though the website.

I got curious only because of Dan's reactions:

"It says: 'Condition exhibits itself through light brown, greasy scales, which can crop up between the breasts, or...' Ooookay, that's not it."

"Ewww, that's disgusting! Moving on..."

"Oh, my God! Who develops that?"

"Oh, he's older than six months, he can't possibly have that..."

"Huh, what was that?" I asked, curious.

"Really, you don't want to see this stuff. It's really gross." Dan said.

"Then you shouldn't be reacting to it like you have been," I said, taking a peek. "Because your reactions have been making me...Oh, my GOD! That's NASTY!" I yelled, as I got an eyeful of a photo of some nasty head lesion Dan had called up.

"I told you," Dan said, grinning.

Yeah, he did. But I just couldn't resist seeing a few more, and I reacted in much the same way for the next few pictures of skin conditions I saw, until I finally excused myself and went out to walk the dog. God help me, I was a medical rubbernecker.

My son has a doctor's appointment tomorrow about his head. I think from here on out, I am going to stay away from the medical websites and leave the diagnoses to the professionals.

Although, if anyone reading this has any clue as to what these light brown, slightly oily, flaky scabs are on my son's scalp, feel free to comment on it. Can't be any worse than all the nasty pictures I've seen. I think I'm going to block out that site once the little guy is old enough to use the Internet more fully...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Just when I'm as low down as I can get these days, it is music that lifts me up.

The weather has been good, so I've been taking the little guy to the park. About mid-week, when we were there, I could hear some faint strains of a violin coming from a nearby park shelter. Seems two guys were doing some outdoor practicing with a violin and a rhythm guitar in the shelter closest to the kids' playground. They were attracting a number of kids to the shelter in a Pied-Piper-ish effect, but I found that I didn't have to go all the way there to hear it. It was nice having the violin wafting over the playground as the kids ran like crazy, climbed up the slides, hung from the rungs of the twisted ladders, spiralled their way down the dizzy pole (I wish they'd invented those about twenty years earlier) and just generally had a good time.

I popped into the local Whole Foods, and while I was trolling the aisles, I heard some kinda mean sax playing. It was too loud to be on the piped-in music speakers, and after a few more bars, I looked up and behind me at the market offices and beheld an employee doing his thing on the balcony outside the offices. It was so nice hearing that music as I shopped, but what really got me was when he made it a point to get on the speakers and dedicate a short medley of "Amazing Grace", and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" to those who had been murdered recently. It hurt my heart, but I needed that music.

A day later, I took the little guy to the same park. We have been continuing our soul music experiment, and I have found that, aside from Sharon Jones and James Brown, my son likes the Soul Sides Volume 1 CD that this guy puts out, but, much to my father's chagrin (and mine, a little), the little guy gives a big thumbs-down to Otis Redding. As we were getting into the car after a big afternoon of getting goofy on the playground, I heard the little guy doing these grunts that I chalked up to basic kid noises. And then he sang this:

That's the sound of the men
Working on the chain

And gave me a big smile. And I smiled back.

That's how I knew he was hooked on Sam Cooke.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sorry to yell at you guys in my last post (I do feel better now, Judy, a little 8-) ).

Take a look at one of the reasons why I still live here: this guy and his speech.

Go ahead, read it. I'll wait.

Still not convinced? Check this:


I just wish I coulda been there...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hey, check the sidebar, people!

It's National De-Lurking Week! And it's almost over!

If you want me to quit using an exclamation point at the end of every sentence I write, then make yourself known if you read this blog! In other words, post!

I won't bite, really! It's physically impossible to do so through a computer!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In the mornings, I wake up in a city that is in a constant fight to the death...with time.

I live in this place that puts itself across to the rest of the world as a sort of shrine to the Moment, if such a thing even exists. All I need to do, however, is look around my own house, walk outside and see my cobblestoned street, and view all the other nineteenth-century era relics that people live in on my block and others in the neighborhood, and I know that the Moment is not the only thing that matters.

And yet, ephemerality is a part of the geologic foundations of this very place. University professor and historical geographer Richard Campanella tells us in one of the first sentences of his latest book: "New Orleans, one of the nation's older cities, lies upon the youngest sizable earthen surface of North America." Sieur de Bienville didn't care about geology when he founded this city, however - all he cared about was a viable French gateway to the interior of this New World territory that France was determined to hold down. In the colonial era of this part of the earth, no one wanted to be left out, or caught with their pants down.

Notice I haven't talked about the weather...yet. Not only is this place an experiment in geologic defiance, it is also an ongoing experiment in defiance of any nasty stuff that mother nature seems to throw this way, be it diseases, hurricanes, floods, termites, what have you. All of the resistance to this only feeds a mythic sense of futility in residents here that shrugs at the very real fact that all they see could well be gone tomorrow. It has all happened many times before, you see - and yet, this place IS still around. So savor the Moment.

Evidence of this attitude is writ all over every entry of this place's blog contest. And there are so many ways in which this attitude is great. Granted, many of these entries make my city sound a bit like Norman Rockwell for adults, and if it hadn't been for the fact that I, too, have experienced many of the same things these people are talking about, I'd pooh-pooh it all as such major mythical, idyllic crap.

The downside of the Moment, however, is that people will sell their souls for it, instead of just letting it happen. When it doesn't happen, people will go so far as to devalue all of life around them in order to chase the Moment. That is when other aspects of life suffer.

Before the 2005 hurricane season, everyone here seemed to be in parallel worlds, and in different time zones, all within the parish limits. It was a well known problem that politicians around here had always angled for more power and always would. The police force was a notoriously crooked operation, but most everything else was working, so that was okay. Wealthy residents who wielded some community power chose to use that power only within their own circles - and those circles had dwindled to everyone mentioned in local high society pages and the exclusive membership of various Carnival organizations. Everyone else in the city put up with the way things were, because life here, when it was sweet, was sooo sweet.
Full of Moments - JazzFest, Mardi Gras, St Patrick's Day, any good live band playing at any given bar or club on any night. Music on Quarter streets. A walk along the Mississippi. Football games. Pickup basketball games. Sitting out on your porch on a hot, hot day and shooting the breeze with anyone who passes by (I told y'all I've experienced a lot of this stuff myself).

Katrina and Rita has revealed how shallow these Moments were for everyone in this city. Even the Army Corps of Engineers has been stuck in some mighty deep water (and something else that's just as deep). Things could not go on the way they did before.

And yet...and yet...

Our do-nothing walking id of a mayor is still in office. An (allegedly) crooked US Congressional representative is still in office, too...for right now. Even though the police have had their ranks supplemented by National Guardsmen, they are still stymied by the crime sweeping this city. A spate of murders has shown that many in the current population believe in pursuing the Moment, all right - that Moment of instant death.

Time is marching on, and this place that I love is hanging in the balance. Deep down, I don't want to leave, but this isn't just about me anymore.

My son deserves a large number of Moments of his own. If the leadership and the law enforcement of this place doesn't snap out of their own sense that this is all a bad dream out of time, however, this place will surely die. And that most glorious of all Moments, that of hope, will die with it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A current employer of mine asked me if I lived in the neighborhood where artist, filmmaker, and mom Helen Hill was killed. To her great relief, I told her I lived in the lower Garden District, but I did know someone who lived only four blocks away from Hill's home. It's just awful, what's happening with these murders in general. "At this rate, there just won't be a city," my employer said.

Indeed, this fellow NOLA blogger, who is way closer physically to the site of the Hill murder and a few other choice murders, details a planned march on City Hall in these parts, and then he skillfully dissects the pros and cons of this strategy of the citizens taking the city back from these damned killers. Overall, he is for the march, as am I. And there does need to be a massive follow-through on the part of the march's participants. This all may seem like yet another thing to deal with on top of all the other recovery efforts, but dealing with the scope and the scale of this violence is VITALLY important to recovery.

When people are breaking down doors just to take your life, I'd say that's worth a march.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It's not much of a secret that the bylines of many of the local news items I've picked on here have had the name of this guy on 'em. You gotta love a guy who bucks tradition right off and goes for the jugular with his column. This city wouldn't be what it is without Chris Rose, and in honor of his most recent honor, I suggest buying his book. You'll be contributing to a few NOLA charities in the bargain, since he donates a chunk of the proceeds from book sales to them.

I'm also heartened that, in the wake of the Tower Records closure, something good has come of their absence. Local music retailers seem to be doing much better, thank you. Now, if the remains of Tower would simply release their consignment CDs by local musicians to the local record shops or, better yet, to the musicians themselves, life would be good.

Another good thing is Sean Payton getting NFL Coach of the Year by a maaaajor landslide (44 votes! The second place candidate got four). It's about time the Saints started getting somewhere, since it's only been 40 years or so. Even the late former sportscaster Buddy Diliberto agrees (and I happen to live in the only city that would even attempt to get an interview from this guy after his death).

And finally, I have a good friend and former employer who is urging everyone to vote for Reggie Bush for Rookie of the Year before the Super Bowl comes around (actually, the voting ends on January 29) . It's not every day a pro football player is responsible for saving the jobs of many, many teachers with his philanthropy. As Richard J. Daley said, vote early and often! And while you're at it, get yourself one of these stylin' shirts to further honor the only Bush we really can all agree on.

I just figured that, after my last post, the terrible murder news we have going out of this area, and our mayor opening his mouth and inserting his foot once again, I needed to post some cheery stuff.

Plus, Mardi Gras season has begun. No better way to welcome that than by killing some people, right?

God, I'm a sicko...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I am writing this post, right here, right now, in the interest of remembrance. It seems to me that I am forgetting a great deal.

I got going on this blog because I didn't want to forget this time in my life. I've got a new beginning going in a city of new beginnings...or potential ones, anyway.

But there are things I have certainly wanted to forget in my life. How insanely I behaved when I was first down here in New Orleans, trying to work and not getting along with most of my co-workers. The detritus of personal relationships I have left in my wake at certain times in my life. How I tied myself to one employer as a willing slave for five years. I have also really tried to put behind me the ongoing effects of depression, effects that blew themselves up to great proportions once I had my son.

Putting my depression in the past denies the fact that it is still a factor in my life. That it colors many of the decisions I make on a daily basis. That I still, after nearly a year down south, haven't fully cleaned up the leftover stuff from our move here, damn it!

I learned that I was pregnant shortly after we were making preparations to move up to Queens. I had been so relieved, overall, that I was leaving a work situation that had grown oppressive to me, and that I was doing it without making a major enemy of my ex-boss. What could she possibly say to me now that my husband had found a good job elsewhere? I had to go with him, simple as that. Hey, I was looking forward to a fresh start, too; I had become very interested in pursuing a master of sacred music degree, and New York was the place to do it, since the two big cantorial schools were located there. There might well be a year in Israel involved in a five-year program at either school, but I was young, newly married, and I could do it!

Until I got sick. In the middle of getting our stuff ready for the big move. I was still working, but I got so sick that I couldn't do any glass blowing. Things got really bad when I went to fill up the gas tank of my car at a local station and became sick to my stomach from the gasoline smell - someone passing by even asked me if I was all right, I looked that green. I got a home pregnancy test, followed the directions, and my heart sank at the positive result.

Hence the beginnings of a PPD recipe: A new career beginning deferred + a move to a new city + my hiring of horrible thieving movers who stole half my CD collection, our TV, VCR, and stereo, and Dan's 1920's-era saxophone. What else should be added to this stew? Try the decision I made to go off my antidepressants. I figured I was no longer in an insane employment situation, and it might well be safer for my developing baby if I were to discontinue my medication. Plus, I was lazy. I just didn't want to go through having to find another therapist.

What was I, nuts? Ummm, yeah.

I had my son. My mother stayed with us for a week while I recovered from the episiotomy. She yelled at me on the last day of her stay, a rage fueled just as much by the fact that she hadn't had much sleep as by the fact that I was crying my eyes out at the drop of a hat. She told me to suck it up, that I was a mom and I couldn't be feeling sorry for myself. I was never happier to see her leave, and yet I wanted to crawl on my hands and knees and beg her not to go. I went through two weeks of off-and-on breastfeeding, of days when my son would take to the breast just fine and then days that would leave me reeling from his refusal. He finally took to it fully after that time and stayed with it for six more months. But I still wasn't happy about it. By that time, I had a hard time seeing him as something other than a needy appendage.

I was yelled at once by an elderly woman in the SelfHelp program at my synagogue when my son was still very young and was squalling to be fed. Initially, she seemed very nice and wanted to chat about kids, but when she saw I was breastfeeding, she began to yell at me to leave, that there were men present. Forget that I wasn't in a conspicuous place in the room at all. Forget that the men that needed to be protected from the sight of my chest were yelling at her to lay off me. I left because I just felt so bad in general. I wasn't in any mood to fight back against her raving, because I was having trouble fighting against my own internal raving.

In New York, there weren't many stay at home moms like me. I couldn't find them initially. I didn't have the time. I was trying to keep up with my exhaustion, with keeping house in the apartment, with the care and feeding of this very needy baby. The synagogue Drop-In center for parents and their kids aged up to three was about to dissolve because the few parents who were coming regularly had kids who were outgrowing the program - and there weren't many stay-at-home parents around to continue the program. I signed my son up for a morning Kindermusik program at the local Y, but most of the caretakers of the attending kids were nannies. Gymboree classes weren't much better; in fact, they were worse, because the instructors for them were just vapid.

My biggest depression indicator was when I would be crossing Queens Boulevard, a massive, eight-lane street with three medians and giant signs at our corner that proclaimed CROSS WITH CARE - A PEDESTRIAN WAS KILLED CROSSING HERE. I would be crossing it at least a couple of times a day, and each day, I would wonder how I could make my own death look like an accident. I clearly wasn't serving anyone well, least of all my son. Maybe if I walked just a little bit slower in traffic, but not too slow, I could be hit and my son could be saved, his stroller having made it onto one of the medians. Yes, that would work. Except it never happened due to my autopiloting skill in crossing the street before the lights changed.

I finally, really snapped when my son was seven months old. I was tired of being angry at him and of wanting to kill myself. I caught myself slapping him on his rear end when he wouldn't stop wriggling while I was changing him. Was this what I had become? It scared me so, I called the social worker at the synagogue for a referral, and she gave me the name of an organization in Douglaston. I called them up right away and made an appointment. I talked with a friend I'd made through the syangogue, a newlywed and recent convert to Judaism, who recommended a friend of hers to look after my son while I went on my appointments or just decided to take a full day off.

On my first day in the therapist's office, I was a bawling mess who could barely get out her sorry tale. I felt very alone walking into that room, and only a little less alone when I walked out of it. This wasn't going to be easy. It would take a lot of work to get me saner, and nothing was going to happen overnight. However, I had to do it. I had to retrain myself as the parent that I had never wanted to be, while still keeping most of my self intact. My therapy was no longer only about me - it was about keeping everything together enough so that I and my family could thrive.

My daily life at home is still chaotic (i.e., the aforementioned messy house - anyone want to help? I'll pay. Really, anything... ), but manageable. I've moved to an entire city that is on SSRIs, so I'm not alone in that way. I am still remaking myself into Mom - not supermom, but the mom that is me. What I found I need to do more of, however, is the act of telling it like it is. That very act is what can help set us all free. I do my best in the service of New Orleans' recovery with this blog. I rail against cover-ups in my comments on other people's blogs. I need to keep putting my money where my mouth is.

The fight hasn't left me. The battle is still raging inside. I'm just waaay less likely to take it out on the people I love the most.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

There's such a slew of "wrap-up" posts on the blogs I check regularly, and I was actually a tad loath to contribute one of my own - until I checked back on my very first post and realized that an important anniversary for me is coming up.

My reasons for getting started are all there. Except for the fact that I signed up for Blogger just to respond to someone else's post, and then I had the URL burning in my brain, tugging at me to be used.

There are still some people back in the neighborhood we left behind in Queens, who are keeping tabs on this little slip of the Net, and I am thankful for that. They are concerned for us on a personal level, but they also care a great deal for this crazy place we live in.

I've also garnered some regular readers, and I am thankful for that as well. Keep on checking in, y'all. Things are changing despite all the stuff I have railed against and had to ignore outright in order to get on with living and raising my family. Life can be sweet, and Dan and I still think it's even sweeter in New Orleans. The moments are simply even more savory in these times...

Recovery is indeed slow in these parts, but it has helped me a great deal to write about it. I intend to keep doing so. I invite you to continue with me on this journey.

'Cause it ain't over yet...