Thursday, May 31, 2007

Warning: Link-o-rama coming up!

Our walking id of a mayor gave a State of the City address last night, and the following people are the brave souls who stoically witnessed the blowhard doing his best to pull the wool over everyone's eyes.

Pre-speech opining from Oyster. If this were a perfect world, this would be more than just an opinion.

Quasi-absentee speculation about what an absentee mayor could possibly have to say about the city he's running away from on a regular basis from Mark Folse.

Speechifying text is here, thanks to Jeffrey. I guess we now know the real reason why the local video store is stocking the Muddy Bears: chocolate on the outside, sickly sugary, artificially flavored mush on the inside.

Editor B has his take. Then again, B shoulda been up there instead.

I hope for the sake of her poor, recovering head, that Maitri didn't take in the speech. No doctor would ever order up such tripe as therapy for anything, except maybe screaming.

David at Moldy City pulls at the (un)funny stuff in the speech before he cusses away.

While driving, Varg picks apart a mainstream media pundit.

Schroeder gets creative: And finally, the piece de resistance, the blow-by-blow account of what it is like watching and listening to this schmo: I Know This Guy From Somewhere. Read it all, people. No one quote from Mr. Homan can do all of it justice. Somebody serve that man the severed head of the CEO of Somestates on a silver platter, complete with a hefty insurance check.

Sheckrastos may bemoan being a political slacker, but the NOLA blogpocheh makes it verrry easy and thoroughly enjoyable.

Update, 10:41 AM: Oh, how dare I miss Da Po' Blog? Servin' up all the more reason why Riley needs to resign...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Leigh, do you really want to stay here?" my dad said after we'd passed the National Guard Humvees at the Superdome Holiday Inn. After I'd told him, yes, the Guard is still here. After I'd told him about the trouble the NOPD was having holding on to the officers they have, much less recruiting new ones. After I'd told him about the firefighters needing firehouses and pay raises.

I went down Toulouse Street to Dauphine, to the hotel where LSU had put him up for the few nights he was in the city. I didn't answer him right off, because something in me was a tad chagrined. The old uneasiness over father-measuring-up-daughter's-actions was kicking in, and I was stunned that it was still there. I recovered and said yes. I pulled over to the curb to let Dad out and an NOPD cruiser pulled in right behind me. Two cops came out and proceeded to arrest a guy right there next to the hood of the cruiser.

Ohhh, yeah, that'll show Dad.

LSU Medical, after winning their tug-o-war with LSU proper as to hirings and firings (the head of Pharmacology fought like hell to keep his personnel and won) and then winning the fight to stay in New Orleans, finally turned around and intended to bring my dad to New Orleans. However, time was not on their side. The cards were stacked against them, really, from before Dad even accepted their invitation to come down here. He'd already finalized his plans to accept another research position in the southeast, but he figured he'd at least be wined and dined. Maybe they'd make him an offer he couldn't refuse...

Well, they got the wine and dine part right. Dad enjoyed meals at Lilette and Restaurant August before he hooked up with Dan, the little guy, and me. He thought the Pharmacology department was on the verge of being world-class in their structure and research. LSU Medical, however, is barred from giving prospective candidates a nationally competitive salary by LSU itself. In terms of other programs in the southeast, the salary is good, but then one has to contend with the rising cost of living in the greater New Orleans area (the types of homes my parents were looking at were in the $200K range, with the first floor gutted and no other work done on the house...ohhh, yeah, that'll get my dad to change his plans in two seconds...).

Dan and I served up a further reality check. We took Dad to Mandina's and Angelo Brocato's and began our nudging off the Isle of Denial. I drove Dad through Lakeview that night on the way to check the hours of Dorignac's in Metairie, so that we could pick up a bottle of some bubbly on the way back to the airport the next day, and he got a taste of what I first experienced when I went all through New Orleans after nearly four years. Nothing like a drive through ghost subdivisions at night - it's like dreams of Levittown gone bad. The Amityville Horror expanding well beyond the one house. The Five Towns area left for dead.

(I guess I'm likening so much of Lakeview to Long Island locales in part because Dad grew up on Guyland, close to the Five Towns area, and Levittown was the blueprint for loads of post WWII communities, neighborhoods, and subdivisions all over this country. I am also reminded of a New York Times Magazine article that came out a while back examining the role of Long Island and fairly recent nefarious doings on that island. Ladies and gents, in the scheme of things, Guyland can be seen as a glorified sandbar that has nurtured the likes of such things as the Amityville Horror house, Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco, a thoroughly drunk Jackson Pollock, cookie-cutter homes, and decaying Gold Coast mansions such as the ones featured in The Great Gatsby (the book, not the movie - after a thorough search, they went for a mansion in Newport, R.I., for the movie). And this could all stem from the fact that Guyland is simply one giant bedroom community...nobody really needs to be there, geographically speaking. At least, these are some of the things this article talked about, from what I can recall. If I didn't know better, I'd advocate restoring the Gulf Coast and the levee system with all of Long Island, but I've got family and damn good friends who live there, so it'll just have to stay put. So be it.)

SOOOO...the next morning, I dropped off the little guy at school and took Dad around the town. The damned disaster tour of 2007. Woo-hah. I filled Dad in on happenings in and about town, including showing him the effects of the tornado that hit the area around my son's school a while back, the construction around the 17th Street canal breach ("They're still working on this????" Dad asked incredulously. Uhhh, yeah), the forest of signs in front of homes right next to the levee castigating the Army Corps for trying to take the land from its owners, the large numbers of unoccupied homes, the vacant lots, the homes people were gutting and rebuilding, the abandoned schools, the flooded houses of worship, the abandoned boats in some yards, the concrete foundation wasteland that is now the Ninth Ward in the vicinity of the Industrial Canal levee name it, I did my best to fit it in in the couple of hours before Dad had to catch his flight out.

I talked about the blogs and bloggers, about people who were staying, about people who wanted to come back, about the idiocy of our elected officials, about the despair, the joy, the traffic, the prospect of another hurricane season and what it could bring. At one point, I took a left onto St. Claude Avenue from Franklin Avenue, and the sirens sounded behind me. Awww, great...

"Did you see the no left turn sign back there?" the cop asked.

"Uhhh, no," I said.

"Did you see the sign?" she asked again.


"I'm from Pennsylvania, Officer," Dad leaned in as I cringed a little. "My daughter is showing me all around the city, showing me what's happened."

"Ohhh, okay," she smiled. "This won't happen again, right?"

"Uhhh, no sir...uh, ma'am," I stammered, as she laughed.

We went around a few blocks to check out the miniscule No Left Turn sign at the intersection and took a short detour through the Marigny to do so. It was there that Dad was wowed by the architecture. "These houses are beautiful," he enthused. "There are some real jewels in here!" He even laughed a little at the term "camelback shotgun" when I pointed one out to him.

It was then that my mom called. She and Dad chatted about the state of their house up north, which is going through some re-flooring, re-carpeting, and basic face-lifting in order to ready it for sale. Then an interesting thing was said by my dad. Something to the effect of, "This town has been hit bad, but there's a certain amount of its architectural heritage still intact. If this place can solve its government problems, its police and firefighter problems, and bring its hospitals back, there oughta be a good recovery here."

Huh. Dad was looking at all the devastation for only a few hours, and he came up with that. Yeah, Dad has never liked New Orleans. Yeah, Dad had already made up his mind that he wasn't going to move here, that he wasn't going to take the job here. He did something that many, many others have not done since this whole mess of 8-29 and after began, however.

He came with an open mind, to a certain extent. A much more open mind than our illustrious oaf of a president, and most every politico that has come through these parts. And, mind you, there are most definitely times when Dad's mind is like a steel trap.

Maybe it was the fact that his daughter lives here, and it hasn't let go of her and her husband. His only grandson is attending a school here. We're getting a new roof on our house in time for another hurricane season, right here.

Or maybe it was the Marigny...


Glad you came, Dad. We love you.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Have a safe and memorable Memorial Day out there, y'all.

A little something for everyone's viewing pleasure, via Subversive Cross-Stitch. I just love it when math and art come together...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

So I'm slowly recovering from the events chronicled in my last post, and then coozan Pat, bless him (find him a good woman already, people. Really.), suggests that, instead of a Geek Dinner, all of the NOLA bloggers commandeer a local saloon for a Geek Happy Hour. My instant reaction to this:

I think our sheer numbers and alcohol-imbibing capacity would conceivably shut down any drinking establishment this side of the Mississippi. We need to reserve that power for the proper time and unleash it only when absolutely necessary.

Which means we need to head inside the Beltway and head to some bars frequented by many, many Congressional aides to have these Geek Happy Hours. It would truly be the NOLA equivalent of flushing all the toilets in the Pentagon at the same time, methinks. Hell, if we're all drunk enough, we can probably do that, too.

Has anyone made the final arrangements on the Rising Tide conference yet? 8-)

Well, has anyone?

If not, I nominate Pat for entertainment directeur for such stellar idears.

Summer's a comin', people, as is hurricane season. We need an injection of life into all this muggy morass. If it takes hijacking a bus for a bloggers' drinking bout...uh...conference, then so be it.

Bottoms up, y'all.


While we're all at it, maybe we can demand some sort of satisfaction from the people responsible for this. Yeah, Doc Martens has severed ties with the offending ad agency, but they did approve the ad campaign in the first place. It is thoroughly ironic that Kurt Cobain wore Chuck Taylors, to boot. Boot...heh.

AND we could move on from D.C. and crash some other blogger parties! Join forces! Yeah!

Friday, May 25, 2007

I haven't felt like this since the first twelve months of my son's life. Since I saw images of the flooding and disaster that was 8-29 and after. Since I was yelling at the A.C. of E. hosts of a Congressional tour of the Ninth Ward that was being shown on C-Span. Since the teachers of my son's first preschool class told me the little guy was controlling and manipulative and not very curious. Since I was working in glass for a boss who regularly overworked and underpaid me, and eventually decided for a few months not to pay my salary on time but to pay newer coworkers' salaries in a timely fashion because "I would understand".

First, make a roux. Throw in the requisite veggies, herbs, spices, and andouille sausage, and then uncork a bottle of all the abovementioned feelings mixed together, stir it in, and you've got yourself a pot of whup-hide gumbo. Serve it to whoever needs an ass-kicking.

First off, I'm glad the little guy's school year is coming to an end, because his regular teacher broke her heel and has been out of commission for the past two weeks. As a result, the kid has been acting up in class, since he can sense right off the pushover that the remaining teaching assistant is.

Throw in the fact that the last so-called field trip of the school year was at City Park's Storyland playground on a day that turned rainy, and there was no contingency for bad weather. All the young-uns ran around in a teensy pavilion nearby for over an hour while the buses were seriously detained. The boys in the little guy's class were all getting slap-happy with each other, but my son was the only one who was dragged out to me for his part in the behavior in general. I then took a good look around and realized that nearly all the parent chaperones for the Storyland jaunt were parents of the girls in all the preschool classes; the boys' parents were largely conspicuously absent. And here I'm having to punish my son for his behavior while all sorts of four-year-olds (mostly girls) are walking up to me and telling me how he hit them, too.

Pardon me while I dish out some of that whup-hide gumbo to the teachers who organized such a sorry trip. Here's a ladleful for those teachers who singled out the little guy for something everyone else was doing. And, for those preschool girls who haven't taken the adage to heart about "If you can't say something nice...", some little cups of gumbo for you. Inhale it all, little dears, and go running home, now. Don't forget to drive your parents insane.

Oh, but it gets worse...

I was driving my dad off the Isle of Denial and showing him the real deal of the ruined neighborhoods. Just when I'm heading down I-10 to take him to the airport, I get a call from the assistant to the little guy's class. She asks me to come in and observe my son's behavior in class. I was already feeling terrible from having gone through Lakeview, Gentilly, some of New Orleans East, and the Ninth Ward, and this just put me over the edge. I was already deemed borderline certifiable by my dad for coming back here after four years in NYC and six months after 8-29 (although, when he mentioned this to the folks at LSU Medical who were offering him a job, they thought it was great and (most likely) wanted to subject me to a battery of tests in order to engineer some sort of spray of persuasion that would help the Pharmacology department recruit new people, no doubt), and now here's the teaching assistant reporting more of this antisocial behavior from my son. So I suck as a person and a mom. Beautiful.

I dropped Dad off and went to my son's school in a whup-hide gumbo mood. I went into the bathroom first and encountered two little girls who had been on the Storyland hell-trip. One of them said, "I know you! Are you the mom of a boy? Ohhh...the mom of the boy who was getting punished."

I gritted my teeth and walked out before I stuffed those four-year-old girls' heads in the toilets. Their parents still hadn't taught them to shut their mouths if they weren't saying something nice. So why weren't those parents called in? Grrrr...

I came in the middle of recess and must have come across as whiny little twit mom. Yeah, my son's behavior has to be nipped in the bud. I just wish that the teachers were able to communicate to me exactly what the situations had been in which my son was hitting kids. I want them to at least give me some suggestions on what to do. Instead, I got plenty of nuthin'. I couldn't even come back at a later time to observe him after he came in from recess, because I was in the middle of an emotional breakdown.

"If he's so intent on hitting other kids, then you need to hit him...let him know that it hurts ," a friend told me.

My God, has it really come to this?

There's still loads of whup-hide gumbo left, but someone has hooked up an IV and is pouring it into my veins. None of this hurts anybody more than it's hurting me. Parenthood sucks.

Hey, Pat...where's that bottle of Maker's Mark?

I need to find the bottom of it.
Oh, wait...never mind. I myself already resemble a drink:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From: Michael Brown
To: FEMA Staff

Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?

A bad Katrina memory has become such a bad e-mail example that the authors chose to open their book with it.

"Bad things can happen on e-mail," they warn.

And now for the good example to come outta all the storm mess:

Last night we watched a nifty program on PBS' Nova about a DARPA sponsored Grand Challenge run by robot cars out in the Mojave Desert. No, not remote-controlled cars. Cars, trucks, SUVs with their own navigation systems, with their own ways of propelling themselves, and with their own ways of seeing obstacles and avoiding them. Start 'em up, be good parents, and let 'em go. Now, most of the focus was on two different engineering teams from Stanford and Carnegie-Mellon...but what I found most intriguing was the story of the team that placed fourth in the Challenge with a vehicle called the Kat-5. I'm just glad they posted the story of these guys online, because it was treated as a bit of a throwaway in the TV program.

Team Gray, at the last minute (relatively speaking), on a shoestring budget (again, relatively speaking), and with a hurricane or two bearing down on their homes while they did it all, got pretty damn far. I applaud these people for their ingenuity and their can-do attitude.

In these crazy times, when all kinds of natural and unnatural forces are seemingly lining up to kick this area in the teeth, it's good to see this. It's also good to learn about the people who came out of the engineering programs that Tulane president Scott Cowan killed because they were supposedly money losers. The brainpower of Team Gray alone would have probably helped put a now-defunct department on the map.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A recent conversation with a dog parker:

- Y'know, they say that a barrel of crude oil is now $80.
- Oh, really?
- Yeah, and I filled up my truck the other day, and it cost me eighty bucks...
- Lordy, so you could get a 55-gallon drum for the same price...
- ...And I'll just refine it myself. Except I think the neighborhood association would have a problem with me setting up a mini refinery on my property.
- Oh, hell, you could just disguise it all as a cistern and make it a historically relevant structure, right?
- Yeah, that'll work!
(mutual laughter)

Recently overheard at the playground from probably the only nanny I will ever hire, if ever I need one:

(to small child, about the little guy's age)"C'mon, you can just crack that confetti egg I gave you alllll over my head. This is a prime opportunity to do it, and you're missing out. You won't get a chance like this every day. Your life will be thoroughly diminished and you will forever feel as though something is missing unless you crack that egg over my head. Plus, I will be forever living in fear of your little hand crushing eggshell all over me when I least expect it unless you just go ahead and get it over with. Kill my fear and enrich your life...crack that confetti egg!!!!"

Or something like that.

I just love life sometimes.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I've had fingers on the brain recently. And no, I'm not talking about brain surgery.

It began with the Vatican Mosaic Studio exhibit I checked out in the Quarter recently. There weren't a LOT of works in the show, but the ones that were there were amazing (Update, 5-21: Ms Mermaid concurs). No, it was not all Jesus pictures...there were mosaicized Monets, a Chagall, Van Goghs, some works after Roman mosaics, and, my personal fave, The Virgin Of The Finger.

My favorite track on the Stax 50th Anniversary compilation that I got recently (in part to help the little guy complete his first-ever assignment) is pretty appropriately titled.

The final thing I've been thinking about recently involves the guy mentioned in this glass artist's chronology (check 1994 - and check the rest of Marquis' site while you're at it, especially the slide-o-rama. Full disclosure: Marquis was also the man responsible for the wet clay in the glory hole). Bob Naess gave a lecture at the art school I attended, and brought, along with his slide carrousel (remember those?) , the drive shaft from a car, which he had turned into a twelve-foot long blowpipe, a massive, solid piece of glass that had to be wheeled in on a dolly (he said he'd used the drive shaft to create the thing, which was almost as tall as I was, and about as thick as my body), an assortment of different glass objects of interest, and a whole lot of crazy stories.

He brought some of the murrine that he'd made a few decades ago, when he traveled with Dick Marquis to Murano to be his assistant, and told some stories about it. He would put some Mickey Mouse murrine in an oven to be reheated for use in a glass work and get hauled into the office of the glass shop by a Communist party-affiliated glassworker, who would protest vehemently to the shop owner the oppressiveness of the presence of a capitalist symbol in his workplace. Oh, well... Naess decided to make some hammer and sickle murrine just to see what would happen. Yes, there was another office trip - a Fascist party member shouted away to the owners about the injustice inherent in the appearance of this oppressive Stalinist symbol in the oven. Yes, Naess went ahead and made some swastika murrine, because he's that kind of a guy...and because he wasn't running for political office in Italy. I still have one of the capitalist murrine floating around my house someplace.

So he continued on with his slides and his stories and projected one slide on the wall that half of the glass department didn't get at first. The half that did get it groaned in disgust, and the groans became louder as this guy told his story. He was in a bit of a rush to finish a final project in grad school, and he slammed his way into and through the woodshop to do so. The teaching assistant at the shop tried to tell him to relax, but he waved her off impatiently - things to do, stuff to complete. One pass of some wood on the shop table saw, however, and something else was cut besides the wood. Everyone finally got it at that point and groaned at the huge slide of the severed thumb tip (a diagonal cut, just beneath the thumbnail) that was up on the wall. Yes, he left the hospital that day, with his thumb tip in a bottle of formaldehyde, and he brought that bottle with him to my school, and he showed some more slides of that same thumb tip propped up against some glass pieces he did ( for purposes of scale, he said), because...he's that kind of a guy.

So these days, my hands are itching to do some kind of crafting after some years away from glassworking( the last time I was actually working in front of a glory hole was February 14, 2004) . Though I have been doing loads of needlepoint and cross stitch for around seven years now, I'm thinking about jumping into the mosaic thing. It'll take cleaning out a back shed we have of detritus accumulated from former tenants, not to mention acquiring some other things like tools, glass, grout, whatever. Inertia must be overcome.

And table saws, if needed, will be handled with the utmost of care. The last thing I want to have kicking back on me is one of my ten digits.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Well, I wrote this earlier in the week...

...and then, this morning, Mark posted this.

They were robbed of everything America had told them made their lives valuable: their houses, their possessions, the jobs that might help them to rebuild. The promises they have believed, that hard work and timely payment would make them safe, that their government would protect them in extremity, proved to have all been lies. They lost everything; not just things, but faith. Is it any wonder that many of the elderly or infirm could not cope, that even the younger and stronger might despair so that suicide rates spiked in the months after the storm?

Loss can be a killer. It is tough to crawl out from under it.

But killing any kind of faith has got to be one of the cruelest things imaginable.

In my early days home, the ghosts seemed to crowd around. It was an inescapable feeling in a city so clearly in ruin. With passing time there is a growing numbness, a scarring over that might be healthy, but I wonder. As the dead pass deeper into memory, does our sense of obligation to them wain as well? As Memorial Day creeps up on us, we will hear the routine speeches about the sacrifices of our glorious dead, and our own obligations to the constitutional republic they died to create or defend.

There was so much hope for our city even at the height of despair, that given a slate wiped clean we could rebuild it better: better levees, betters schools, better government: levee and assessor reform, the blossoming of new schools, the election of new officials (recall: in the districts where the population was returned in significant numbers, we tossed out the old ones. Nagin is the exception, not the rule). As we slide toward old ways, I believe we need to remember those who died in the flood--all of them, including those who died of despair under an unending burden of bad news--and the obligation we have to them.

At the very least, we are obligated to listen and to act whenever and however we possibly can.
The people who are still here are some of the strongest people I know, but they all need more than empty promises.

Please, let's all do what we can, and a little more, every day.

Because everyone's lives can depend on it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Our roof is finally - finally- being worked on.

If anyone happens to venture down the gray brick road and sees a bunch of fellas ripping off a whole bunch of laths and carefully piling some red tiles off a precariously high roof, well, pray that the job gets done right and that all those souls successfully defy gravity in the time it takes to get the roofing material on, get new laths up, and get all the tiles back on. Dan has said, "Oh, it should take about two weeks."

Shhhhyeah, right. I'll believe that if and/or when it happens.

I should probably spend more time on my recently discovered talent, anyhow. I called Dan the other day just to leave a message for him - I figured, since he was away on bidness, that I'd just leave it on the voicemail and he'd get it. It wasn't an emergency or anything.

I didn't expect him to call back so soon.

Me - Hello?
Dan - How did you know I was in the middle of my presentation?
Me - Honey, I didn't know squat about that. I didn't even expect you to call me back so soon. I figured you'd just play back the message later. (guilty tone) Uhhh, did the cell ring in the middle?
Dan - Well, no, I'd set it to vibrate. I could feel it.
Me - (laughing)
Dan - It's just used to do this in New York, too...and my mom would do this on occasion when I was working at (No-Cal HMO)... It's weird...
Me - (still laughing) Oh my GOD! What a hoot!

So this probably means a number of things.

I'm probably turning into my mother-in-law (ohhhh, boy...).

I have an intuition that can sense, across great distances, the exact moment when Dan is in the middle of something momentously, publicly productive...and I must communicate this through the cellular airwaves.

Dan and I were just meant for each other, I guess.

Good vibrations....



Oh, and the NOLA blogpocheh has jumped on this one and swarmed around it like the Formosan termites around the streetlights...although this guy has a bone to pick with the unproven science in the article. Forward the Barry article to all the folks who think things are just hunky-dory down here. Don't forget that it could happen to you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I started out writing a fairly happy post, and maybe I'll go back to it another time. My husband is currently out on a bidness trip, but he's not so far gone he doesn't get some news from home. He shared this one with me last night shortly after he told me he got to his destination safely.

A kid my husband taught in religious school umpteen years ago found a deserted lot in a ruined neighborhood here in New Orleans, took a gun, and shot himself this past weekend.

I cannot believe I just typed that sentence. I didn't expect this to hurt this much.

The fellow's family's house took on a lot of water from the levee breaches. Around this time last year, his dad committed suicide. And now this.

I hate, hate, to think about what the surviving family members are going through right now. If I'm this beat over it, they must be devastated.

Many years back, Dan embarked on his first year of teaching Judaism to grade schoolers every Sunday. It was a class that was considered to be full of hellraisers, from what I could gather from Dan's fellow teachers. Yeah, Dan had his difficulties with that class...but he also happened to connect with some of those kids.

One in particular was quite the character. Dan recognized something in him beyond the cutup exterior he would exhibit around his peers. This was around the time that Dan and I had begun dating pretty seriously, and Dan introduced this kid to me after a Shabbat service one Friday evening.

"Not bad," this twelve-year-old said to Dan. "Not bad at all."

Yep, one bright guy.

No, really. He did well with his bar mitzvah, learned to temper his clowning impulses a tad, and was doing pretty well with school and life, from what we could tell by checking in with him occasionally as we all aged. Time passes, though. In our shuffles up to NYC and back here, we lost touch with him...and maybe heard some stuff about his family from time to time; their synagogue participation had tapered off after their kids had graduated and moved on.

This isn't the way to get back in touch.

Words fail me some. I guess a NOLA blogging impulse would be to tie this in with some article somewhere about mental health services going down the toilet. About damaging storm effects that extend beyond the physical and cannot be easily quantified or even definitively identified. To do so right now, though, would be grabbing at thin air and trying to hold on.

I feel awful. Numb. I wanna go back in time, beyond that vacant lot, to when we still kept up with him, and give him our NYC address and phone or, at the very least, our e-mail addresses. I wanna mend whatever gossamer ropes got severed by time. I wanna take on more than I guess I actually can...

...but it's all because I feel as though I am getting squashed under the losses.

A potential world died this past Saturday.

How is it that this one can still be turning?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My mom said - in agreement with yours truly - there'll be days like this:

...April Eaton, an Allstate "relations manager" claims that because Allstate has been around 75 years and insures more than 17 million households, they are acting neither unethically nor illegally. She says that after Katrina changed the world and insurance industry, it is Allstate who is "stepping to the plate first to find solutions that help protect and prepare citizens, while making sure our company can continue to insure as many customers as responsibly possible."

Folks, the above is an idiotic and very unethical response for a number of reasons. I can talk about two of them without cursing until I am blue in the face.

1) Katrina only exposed a decades-in-the-making problem around here, which is that of coastal erosion, coupled with the A.C. of E.'s shoddy maintenance of the levee system and the widening of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, which acted as a major conduit for the storm surge waters. All of this is reversible over time, Somestates. Get responsible and get with THAT.

2) I recounted my experience with Left Coasters' general responses to the plight of New Orleanians a while back, in part to make Maitri feel better, but also to point out that eventually, the kind of crap we are going through here is going to turn around and topple over onto the Californians - and they knew it would. Those who were clueless certainly have a clue now. I just hope that my in-laws aren't insured by the almighty Somestates. Then again, we have been recommending they move out to Atlanta, so this might be the push they need...

Terrible stuff to have to contemplate on Mother's Day, so I will simply smell the dozen Israeli roses Dan and the little guy got for me, thoroughly enjoy my brunch later on today, and direct you to this guy's latest post so that you can help him get his head outta the whiskey bottles and find him a good woman.

Share some love, y'all, and thoroughly chew out the next Allstate provider you see for their legal and thoroughly unethical behavior.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dan's Deep Thoughts

(a touch of love)

- "Hey, do you think we should let our son watch Borat?"
"Think about it. He'll just recognize the voice of King Julien, right?"

-"What do you think would happen if you put some stool softener on an actual wood, metal, or plastic barstool? D'you think it would soften up?"

-Enthusiastically communicating some news over the phone to our pal Justin, the tree man:
"The termites are swarming! The termites are swarming!...Yeah, some of them have made their way into the house, and Leigh's killing them with the remote!"
(to me) "You can just squish them with your fingers, you know."

-On hearing that our son was bit by a classmate at school one day:
"What did he do to deserve the bite? He must have done something..."

And finally, in advance honor of our anniversary (May 20):
-On our honeymoon, this was frequently overheard from Dan every time we drove through the Andalusian countryside:
"It looks like California!"

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Scroll down, people.

ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL the way down this blog.

Contribute to this fellow's nonprofit and life will be good. There will be a spring in your step, a sparkle in your smile, because you have just contributed some dough to a forum that is giving people a voice, and a little help.

Just so you can't weasel out of things too easily, I've stuck a widget on my own blog that will endure for a bit once this post has entered the archives, but the widget can only fit at the very bottom without throwing the template outta whack.

So give your mouse finger a little exercise, folks. Scroll ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL the way down and give a little.

And if you don't like the exercise, well, as my dad likes to say: "TOUGH TOENAILS."

Update, 9:51 AM : Check Stephen Colbert's take on the government's version of "tough toenails" to the governor of Kansas, by way of Mr. Clio. What a hoot!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

(click on Yiddish song title above for translation of transliteration below)
Refrain: Lomir ale zingen a zemerl
Lechem is broyt
Bosor vedogim vechol matamim.
1. Zog zhe mir, rebeynu, lekhem is vos?
Bay di negidim is lekhem a gut heys bulkele,
Ober bay undz kabtsonim, oy, kabtsonim, oy, ovyonim,
iz lekhem a dare shkorinke, nebekh.
2. Zog zhe mir, rebenyu, bosor is vos?
Bay di groyse negidim is bosor a gebrotene katshkele,
Ober bay undz kabtsonim, oy dalfonim,
Iz bosor a lung und a leberl, nebekh.
3. Zog zhe mir, rebenyu, dugim is vos?
Bay di groyse negidim iz dogim a hechtele!
Ober bay undz kabtsonim, oy dalfonim,
Iz dogim an oysgeveykt heringl, nebekh.
4. Zog zhe mir rebenyu, matamim is vos?
Bay di groyse negidim iz matamim a zise zimmesel,
Ober bay undz kabtsonim, oy dalfonim,
Iz matamim gehakte tsores, nebekh.
The above song, a remnant from my Yiddish chorus days, has been going through my head lately. The chorus recorded a glorious version of the song in our last days in NYC, and I was proud to be a part of that. However, it began going through my head for different reasons recently.
Yiddish is a mix of many languages, most recognizably of German and Hebrew, and in many ways, it is considered to be a bastard language. It belonged to people without a country, to a marginalized group of Other that was confined to their own kind and expected to stay there. Even when they stayed there, however, Jewish people were not safe. Once assimilation became a more viable option for large numbers of Jews in western Europe and in America, they largely left Yiddish behind. It was a language of oppression, a tongue that pulled its speakers backwards into the murky depths of shtetls and pogroms.
Forget that Isaac Bashevis Singer won a Nobel for his works which were written in Yiddish. "Translate all those books by I.L. Peretz, Sholom Aleichem, Avraham Reisen, and Sholem Asch into the vernaculars of the countries in which we are now citizens," assimilated Jews said. Yiddish books that were bought by or carted with scholars of a certain age were never passed on to knowledgeable progeny - if they were passed on at all, it was to organizations that were thought to be able to safeguard the books, or to relatives who had no clue as to what was in them and were more likely to toss them. Which is why I'm glad that organizations such as this one are still around. I was also mighty proud to be singing in that chorus, which took me on when I was seven months pregnant, roped my husband in, too, and embraced our entire nuclear family. A big reason why Yiddish is still alive is because of these kinds of connections: organizational, familial, and religious.
One morning the assistant principal at McMain, a brawny gym teacher, called me into his office. This usually meant some discipline was about to be meted out, and I was trying to figure out what I had done...
"What were you doing in Preservation Hall at midnight on a school night?" he asked sternly. He had caught sight of me from a bar across the street that was actually owned by another McMain gym teacher named Johnny White.
"Listening to the music," I said. "I go there with my parents."
"Your parents take you down to the French Quarter? What for?"
"I'm trying to learn to play the clarinet."
He frowned. "Why don't you play in the school band? Why do you want to hang around with all those old colored guys? Half of 'em can't even read music."
"Because I want to play jazz." - Tom Sancton
Yeah, I'm in the middle of Song For My Fathers as well. I'm also in the middle of contemplating questions such as this, and events such as this. Times are indeed a-changin', and people's instincts are to cling to the familiar, in good AND bad ways, as an act of self-preservation. These are the conditions that contributed to the development of Yiddish - isolation, persecution, demonization. These are also conditions that contributed to the development of jazz.
So what? Does this mean New Orleanians - displaced and in place, naturalized and native, sane and insane - are some kinda twenty-first century chosen people? How much good can come out of skyrocketing insurance, energy, and water costs? Out of a storm protection system that is probably not ready to protect this city from a glass of water? Out of a Road Home program...uhh...winding goat path home through the Himalayas that is seemingly designed to deny folks rebuilding money? How much more tsuris can possibly be piled on the victims and survivors of 8-29?
Maybe I am one of the misguided Pollyannas here, grasping at any and all signs of hope and life for sustenance, but hey, I gotta do something. Though the "Lomir Ale Zingen" song is comedic in tone, it recognizes a basic fact: that though a rabbi is revered as a fount of Jewish wisdom, a counselor, and all-around wise man (or woman), the rabbi is not set apart from his/her community. In fact, rabbis are fully expected to marry and have children. To see that the rich eat, drink, and behave differently from the poor, one must be there among the rich and the poor, buying food from the same places, educating their children in the same schools, celebrating and mourning as a community.
Ladies and gents, we are our own best leaders, no matter where we are. I have read many, many blog posts, over and over again, written by people who are basically good. People who want to get the truth of what is happening out there because they know that someone will be reading their words. People who are right smack in the middle of all this sludge called recovery. These people are doing pretty darn well at keeping their heads above it all, but everyone is gonna falter occasionally. That's just life.
Lo mir ale zingen a zemerl. Whatever song you sing, it will carry your voice, and your experience, along to the next phase, the latest development. This will take time. Energy. Maybe even another lifetime or two. Make yourselves strong. Get back into shape. Keep your eyes and ears, hands and hearts open. Pass it on. Pass it on...
Two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that telling the story all the way through is an act of love.*

I get tired of being depressed, I really do. I knew eventually I'd have to blog about it, but I thought I could at least put it off. JazzFest helped, but hey, I've had to face the music...that is, the news that this city really ain't ready for the next storm (thanks, Clay...sigh). The NOLA blogpocheh, in the face of everything else they've been doing, is having to face it, too. Plus, on top of it all, the bloggers' vital engineering fount of info on the pumps is leaving the area.

When it rains around these parts, it pours.

I can tell you anything. All you have to believe is the truth.*

And, ladies and gentlemen, when someone who knows disaster and devastation is stunned by New Orleans' appearance nearly two years after 8-29, well, we as a country ought to be at least shamed into action. (T'anks, erster, you treif thing, you.)

*Dorothy Allison

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ladies and gents, happy Lag BaOmer! Soon it will be time to get the Torah...but until then, people can celebrate by having large gatherings, cutting their hair, and just generally whooping it up.

I myself did the large gathering part yesterday by heading out to the JazzFest with Dan and the little guy. Spent most of my time at the Economy Hall tent taking in some jazz, especially some fantastic stuff from the Treme Brass Band and a little girl named Gabrielle who nearly stole the show right out from under their instruments by belting out some "Bourbon Street Parade". She could certainly throw out the sass, too: "I ain't done with this mike." Nice to see some future generations movin' on up in these parts on the stages.

As it was, I had to rein in my husband's and my genetic material on occasion. Where do I start? The little guy took great pleasure in putting his hand on the leg of the lady next to us and having her very adamantly take it off. When I finally noticed what was going on, he gave me a big grin and did it one more time. It was then I decided it was time to take him out and try to shoe-horn ourselves into the Gospel tent for Irma Thomas' tribute to Mahalia Jackson, but, since we couldn't get in, we settled for a song or two just outside the tent and then traipsed back to Economy Hall. On the way back, the kid was mesmerized by the little scraps of fabric on some skinny coed's bikini bottoms - and he couldn't resist giving them a mighty tug, nearly yanking the bottoms off the poor girl. Where the HELL does he get this from? He's going to be BIG TROUBLE in the teenage years and beyond, ladies. I'm warning you...

Note to JazzFest organizers: next time, please stick the Kids' Tent a little further away from the Kids' Village. When sitting at the village and watching the young 'uns run around with nets, various plastic food items, and building blocks with which to rebuild a toy New Orleans, we parents can hear the music at the Gentilly Stage loud and clear, without all the crowd hassles - unless there is music going on in the Kids' Tent. The other problem with the Kids' Tent is that there were various adults of various ages deciding that the back end of it was the perfect place to light up and smoke - and I'm not talking about Marlboros, y'all. Maybe if parents who haven't been able to get their kids to eat for weeks could have been notified about that, they could have brought the young 'uns over to inhale and get some cravings. Otherwise, those adults need to behave like adults and take it someplace else...please. Or just move the darn tent further away from the village.

There were two beautiful kid moments, however. The main reason why we were able to take in as much of Treme's performance as we did was due to fantastic roving vendors of roasted peanuts - one of whom got cornered by my son. I got the little guy a bag, found a great seat in Economy Hall, and he spent most of his time there taking in the music with me and trying to crack open the peanut shells any way he possibly could. After his extended stay at the Kids' Village, I managed to peel him away from the area back to the tent, and when we walked near the dance floor while Dr Michael White was playing, he yanked on my dress.

"Mommy, do you want to dance with me?" he asked.

I dropped everything at the side of the floor and shared a dance with him. Who knows when this will happen again? Maybe when I'm old and gray and he HAS to dance with me 'cause I'm his quasi-sainted mameleh.

Yep, gotta strike when the weather is hot, the jazz is, too, and the kid still loves Mommy relatively unconditionally...


Other Festering Fest Stuff:

After a large number of text messages that, between the both of us, could well have made another version of War and Peace, I finally managed to take in some of Deacon John with Dangerblond and Sheckrastos just outside of their VIP seats. Thanks for hangin' with the peon, y'all. And I did see Mr Clio pass by the Kids' Village with a lil' Clio on his shoulders.

My husband was full of "You missed it"s, as in, "Oh, you saw a lot of Treme, but you missed Alvin Batiste second-lining." "You saw some of Michael White's set, but you missed so much; I think it was his greatest ever." Honey, I love you, but I think next time we go, you will be doing little guy duty for most of the Fest. At least I wasn't this one mom I met at the Kids' Village, who was keeping an eye on her 3 1/2 year old while holding her month-old child. I love JazzFest, but I don't love it that much, thanks.

And finally...Birkenstocks suck. My legs are still suffering.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hey, all you stay-at-home parents.

When can we get politically organized and get our $138,000+ a year?

At the very least, we can establish ourselves as a political entity to be reckoned with. As an organized bloc, we can demand that our illustrious oaf of a president call back our sons and daughters from the Middle East sandbox - because that ain't the right way to play.

"Excuse me," we can tell the lil' oaf. "You cannot play soldiers yet, George Walker. You forgot to clean up the mess you made right here at home."

"Awwwww, Moms! Awwwww, Dads!" he might say (because kids will do that). "You never let me have any fuuuuuun!"

"It's called being responsible," we'll say, leading him off by the ear. "Now get your big machines outta the sand. You're going to need those for when you put things to rights back at home."

"Really????", he might say, with that mischievous gleam in his eye. What he's thinking is something along the lines of this kid's attitude towards his toys. "What can I knock down, huh? Can I shoot things up? Can I? Can I? Pleeeeeeaaaaassssseeeee?????"

"We are putting your machines up and away, young man," we will say, watching his face fall. "They will watch you as your bare hands do the cleaning here, George Walker. And you will be apologizing personally to every one of the people whose lives you harmed."

Yes, he's gonna do his best to twist the knife into us psychologically. Dubya was somebody's child once, too, and old habits die especially hard. "You're gonna be sorry someday," he might say. "Sorry you made me do this!! What did I do to deserve such awful parents????!!!???"

We gotta be strong, though, because, though parenting is an organic skill that takes a lifelong amount of patience and time to master (and is in many ways highly underestimated and devalued as a result), we are human, after all. Plus, if he really gets obstinate, we can always give lil' Dubya the ultimate time out - impeachment and removal from office.

After all, all children will act up and throw tantrums at any time, any place, in front of loads of people, because embarrassing the heck out of one's parents is just another tool in a psychological arsenal. Anybody who objects to impeachment needs to know that there is never a convenient time for such actions. That's just life.

Good parents have been making the tough calls since time immemorial.

So, no more guilt trips, please. No more junk about how we are doing the kind of work that is priceless and cannot be cheapened by a dollar amount. Don't give me that crap about how glorious the second oldest profession is and how no one else is making these claims.

Show me the money instead.

And don't be surprised when I take it, hire a caretaker for a couple of weeks, and head off to a nice beach in the Pacific, preferably Hawaii. Because it's been four-plus years in the works, y'all, and I need a break.

Update, 9:41 A.M.: Before I would head off to the beach, I'd make the proper arrangements for this bright girl's future in school, since the charter schools in this neck of the woods seem to want to shirk that responsibility. No Child Left Behind, my ass.

Oh, and I'd support these folks, too.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


(as of Clay's hurricane season countdown meter)

This calls for a little Chuck Berry...but, since I couldn't find any of the master's own performances of the song, this'll have to do. Plus, the visual effects seem to simulate what happens after one has drained a glass of a different type of Hurricane.

Clay, what happens when the countdown reaches zero? I hope your blog doesn't self-destruct...