September 6, 2003

So once again I take pen in hand, motivated by the vague notion that my life is slipping away, unexamined, unrecorded. Does writing, or the contemplation that writing engenders, somehow slow the passage of time?

I am sitting on the deck in back of our house. It is a lazy Saturday afternoon. My back hurts for no apparent reason, and Xy is feeling perfectly miserable and is napping. Earlier I called the Tulane Family Health Center and made an appointment for her on Monday afternoon; I think she’s suffering from a combination of allergies, stress and exhaustion.

It’s a warm day, and getting warmer. I’m quite comfortable sitting in the shade, sipping iced tea, in my underwear and a tee-shirt. If I stay here as the sun moves across the sky, I’ll lose my shade in a few hours, and then I’ll be sweating, because the sun is hot. Nevertheless, I remarked this morning that it was relatively cool in the house, which is not air conditioned except for our bedroom and the TV room downstairs; it was the first such morning in months. Summer’s almost over.

I should add that by “relatively cool” I mean “not stiflingly hot.”

I must confess that the discomfort of the New Orleans climate was never truly manifest to me during the first three years we lived here. It’s only in the last year, as we have lived in a house without central heat, without central air, without adequate insulation and weatherproofing, that I have really felt just how hot and how cold it can be here.

But it is the dampness of the climate that makes it so uncomfortable, making the cold colder, the hot hotter. The humidity compresses the zone of comfortable temperatures down to a very narrow range, and it seems that there are only a couple months that are not aggravatingly hot or miserably cold.

Our quality of life would, no doubt, be greatly enhanced by the installation of central air, but it doesn’t look as if we will be able to afford that anytime soon.

Indeed, our finances worry me. For the past year, it seems that we have consistently spent more each month than we earned, steadily eroding what savings we had — which were not really savings at all, but just money left over from the homebuying transaction. Dad gave us a big lump sum as a gift, to help us buy the house, and it turned out that our down-payment wasn’t as large as we’d anticipated, so we had some extra. But that’s almost all gone now, and our account dipped below $1000 for the first time in August.

Funny. There was a time, not so long ago, when dipping below $100 would have been the cause for alarm, and $1,000 seemed like an astronomical figure.

As long as I’m complaining about the weather, money, and my health, I guess I might as well add that owning a house has turned out to be a big fucking pain in the ass! Whenever something breaks, I have to fix it myself, and given that our house is something like 85 to 100 years old, there’s always work to be done. The really stressful part is I have no idea how to do most of the work, and I have very little guidance. I feel ignorant, incompetent, and utterly ill-equipped for the tasks that home ownership entails.

Now, just to prove that I haven’t turned all the way into a cranky old man just yet, here are a few bright spots:

  • After twenty-plus years of taking Dilantin every day to keep the seizures away, I started tapering off early this year, reducing my dosage from four pills to three to two to one, and now it’s been — how long? — maybe six months since I’ve taken any. And no seizures. That’s a good thing, because Dilantin had some side effects, like enlarged gums and shrinkage of the cerebellum (yikes!).
  • A couple weeks ago, unable to sleep, I conducted a web search on my own name, and revisited my entry in the Internet Movie Database to discover I’d been given a story credit for a film called “Toss of the Coin,” directed by my old high school classmate, Pat Steele. I got in touch with him and he sent me a DVD of the film. It’s damn good, and based on a story I wrote in high school. The whole thing is kind of like waking up to find that a dream you’ve had has come true. Weird — but nice.
  • Xy’s teaching at Haban’s, just across the river but still a part of the New Orleans Public Schools; she actually seems to have a competent and supportive principal for a change.

It seems impossible, but it’s taken an hour to write these few pages. Writing in a journal is a pleasant way to pass the time, a pleasure which I’m afraid I’ve forgotten, since it has been so long since I’ve kept a journal.

There are some matters concerning my inner life which I’d like to write about, but I suppose I can work my way around to those more difficult issues in due time. Right now, it seems it might be worthwhile to reflect on what’s happened since last I wrote — and since I’m not sure when that was, it’s kind of an open-ended question. Nevertheless:

  • We bought a house, as I mentioned. As of October 1, 2002, we are homeowners in Mid-City, New Orleans.
  • We went to Hawaii this June. I went for a conference (Ed-Media 2003) so the University paid my way, and I took Xy along. Unfortunately we didn’t get out of Honolulu much.
  • ROX is back in production! We’ve cranked out three episodes in the past year, and I’m working on #90 (“Fat”) now. I’ve also put a lot of effort into a new rox.com website.
  • PJ, an old acquaintance from Bloomington, got a job at the University and has been working there as a web developer for just over a year now.
  • I visited Päivi and family in Finland in the summer of 2001, just before the terrorist attacks. I was there for the Ed-Media 2001 conference. Also stopped in London to visit Jaylene, and ran up to Edinburgh and took a three-day tour of the Scottish highlands.
  • Uh… I guess I should mention that I got this job at the University and moved down here to New Orleans in May of 1999