I stopped by the bank on my way home today and opened a savings account. (I also got soaked by the rain but that’s neither here nor there.) Ever since my personal bankruptcy, I do not use credit cards; therefore, if Xy and I are ever to make that trip to Amsterdam, we will have to save our pennies. I deposited 40,000 pennies in the account to get started. We’ll see where we’re at next summer.
Last night Xy and I rode our bikes uptown for the Midsummer Mardi Gras celebration. This takes place every year in late August. I guess that qualifies as “the middle of summer,” never mind the fact that midsummer is technically the first day of summer, which falls in late June. It’s confusing enough even if you’re sober, and nobody’s sober at Midsummer Mardi Gras. For sure it’s the hottest, sweatiest, stickiest time of year in New Orleans — in other words, perfect time for a pack of half-naked drunkards to strut through the dark uptown streets accompanied by a funk-blastin’ brass band. It’s the Krewe of O.A.K second line parade. O.A.K. stands for “outrageous and kinky.”
What freaked me out more than anything else was how big this thing’s gotten. I guess it’s been going for 18 years or so. When I did it a couple years ago, it was relatively tiny. Now it’s huge. There were motorized vehicles: a bunch of golf carts with giant heads on top. And there were political ads: Una Anderson is running for re-election to the school board, and she had signs and literature all over. And there was a “real” brass band there: the Li’l Stooges.
Somehow the whole thing seemed a little crazier and a bit more fun when it wasn’t so massive. But it was still a good time. The coolest thing I saw a guy (Frenchie?) with a light strapped to his head and a canvas mounted in front of him via a chest harness; he was dancing and painting a picture of the parade. I saw Heather Weathers there with the Pussyfooters. There was a also a large contingent of scantily-clad women called the Bearded Oysters. A Xavier prof was with the Not-So-Swift Boat Veterans for Bush. And of course there was an Olympic Synchronized Drinking Team.
My friend David Bryan was dressed as a priest. He decanted Jesus Juice all night: red wine spiked with Skol vodka. Every bit as nasty as it sounds, I’m sure, but I was already too anesthetized to care.
The parade starts at the Maple Leaf and proceeds to Carrollton Station, then to Snake & Jake’s, then back to the Maple Leaf. Xy and I got some grub, then rode our bikes back to Mid-City.
We got to bed around two or three o’clock Sunday morning. Then, around five o’clock, Xy heard sirens, and discovered that the house across the street was on fire. Yikes! It’s been divided into four apartments, and huge flames were shooting up from the back of an unoccupied unit. It was really quite terrifying, but the fire was extinguished in short order and no one was hurt.
Even as I write this, the house across the street is on fire.
Bob Greene came to Xy’s school today. He is Oprah’s personal trainer. He is also a spokesperson for that big fast food restaurant with the golden arches. His message to the kids: Exercise, get fit, and enjoy the new Apple Dippers at McDonald’s.
They made Xy (and all the teachers) wear shirts with the McDonald’s “Go Active” logo. All sorts of politicians and TV cameras were there. The kids were miserable on the blacktop in the Louisiana sun.
What a farce.
I’m not a teacher, but I work at a university, and Xy is a teacher in the New Orleans Public Schools, and we live just a block from Warren Easton High School. All of which means that my life is subject to the cycles of the academic calendar. During the summer, I get in the habit of sleeping in late and coming home for lunch. I get lazy. During the school year, I get up early, exercise more often, cook all our meals, do all the grocery shopping, make lunches for both of us, and so many other things that go with that routine.
Today is the first day of classes here in New Orleans. Our alarm was set for 5:45 a.m., but we didn’t really get up until 6 a.m.. I made oatmeal and coffee for Xy. (I’m still on iced tea myself, and of course I had a bowl of Kellogg’s All Bran Extra Fiber.) I read the paper while Xy took a bath. According to a story in the local section, the superintendent is repeating last year’s “Answer the Bell” campaign. Across the city, the general public is exhorted to make some noise at 8 a.m., to promote awareness that school is back in session. This may seem like a strange ritual, but many kids don’t make it to school here until after Labor Day, or even into October. It’s like a tradition for many families. Do other cities have this problem?
(A bunch of kids from across the street are up bright and early, all in their uniforms, which are required by all the public schools.)
The school system here is not great; in fact, it’s famously bad. And some people say that education is just a form of social control. Xy has had many misgivings about this career choice, and so have I; it’s not easy being married to a teacher. But education is still the best chance many of these kids have to escape the poverty into which they are born, so it’s hard for me to be too cynical about school.
Here’s hoping for a good school year.
Xy came home today without her car. She took a cab. Why? Because she lost her keys. Looked everywhere at the school, couldn’t find ’em.
Probably I should have taken a cab there, so we could have driven back together using my keys, but we were too stupid to figure that out at the time.
I started on supper — steamed asparagus and wild salmon — and Xy noted that the flame beneath the pot with the asparagus was green.
“That’s because the bottom of the pot is copper,” I said. I am such a know-it-all. Turns out I forgot to put any water in the pot. Eventually the bottom turned black. Amazingly, the asparagus turned out more or less good, just a little singed.
One of Xy’s co-workers called a little later to report she’d found the keys in the backseat of her car.
It’s that time of year. I went across the river with Xy this morning, to help set up the computers in her classroom. She has one functioning Windows box and two non-functioning Apples. They are old, old machines, and they didn’t work at all. I plugged them in and flipped the switch — nothing. So we wheeled them out into the hall and hoped she wouldn’t get in trouble (for cluttering up the hall, not for breaking the computers). As for the PC, it seems to be working fine, but the table it’s on is a piece of crap. It is literally falling apart. The monitor fell on my head while I was working on the box! We shored it up with twin stacks of old math textbooks.
Then I had to come back into the city with the morning rush hour traffic…
- Had tea with the fabulous Heather Weathers at Bayou Coffee.
- Painted the alcove off our hallway a bright blue. There’s actually a long story here, but I think I can boil it down to this: Xy tried to give the alcove a porcelain crackle finish this summer, and it didn’t work out, so I’m remediating.
- I did not take the neighbor girls to Six Flags, even though they asked me. But Xy did. First she made them promise they’d help her grade papers anytime she needed them during the school year.
- Played frisbee with Xy by Bayou St. John. (It went in the bayou thrice but we fished it back out. We laughed so hard our sides ached.)
- Had a fried oyster po-boy, dressed, at the Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Mmm.
- Watched the women’s Olympic gymnastics competition.
- Restored a lot of media files to the rox.com site. There are now 135 audio and video files available on our new media server. That means there are still 57 files which are indexed in our database but still not available on the new server. In most cases the files have been uploaded, but I’m re-evaluating some of this stuff, trying to figure out what’s worthwhile and what’s not.
I just got a phone call from a robot which ranted about how many women didn’t vote in the last election. It exhorted me to “Press one if you promise to vote this November.” Confused by my manhood, I didn’t press anything, and the recorded voice said “Thank you,” and hung up.
It’s official. We’re in record-breaking mode. Thursday night’s low set a record. Friday night’s low probably did the same. Hell, today’s high may set a record low. It’s downright chilly out there.
You gotta understand, normally in New Orleans, in August, you feel like you’re underwater, the air is so hot and thick with humidity. Thirsty? Just inhale. When you walk out from an air-conditioned building, it’s like hitting a wall. You almost can’t move for a minute. I love it.
But we turned off the AC units two nights ago and opened all the windows. I hear electricity usage is down 25% across the region.
And this cool weather is not because of Bonnie or Charley. The paper says it’s a “unusually strong high pressure system” which is bring air down from the Plains states. In fact, far from being a result of storms, this system actually steered those storms and made ’em hit Florida.
What I wrote last night about Bonnie was ignorant. I’m not sure the cool weather we’re experiencing has anything to do with the tropical storm that hit Florida yesterday. I think it’s just a cold front bringing dry air down from the north.
But damn, this weather is weird and beautiful.
I felt like I got something stuck in my eye last night, and I couldn’t get it out. Finally I just went to sleep, even though it especially hurt when with my eyelid closed. When I woke up it was still there. Indeed, it is still bothering me now, but less so. I think I’m just getting used to the pain.
It’s freaky cold in New Orleans. Cold? The way the temperature has been dropping I bet we hit the upper 60s tonight. I suppose it has something to do with Tropical Storm Bonnie. We’re on the dry side of the storm here, so the humidity is low. Yes, it’s still August here. It just doesn’t feel like it.
Friday night I couldn’t get to sleep. Same again Saturday. I seemed to be experiencing some vague and nameless dread, some free-floating anxiety.
(I’ve never suffered from true insomnia, but I used to have lots of trouble getting to sleep at night, years ago. Such nights are rare now.)
Sunday night Xy gave me a Xanax. Damn. My anxieties simply evaporated. I felt good. That’s powerful medicine. I slept soundly, didn’t even turn once all night.
When I woke the this morning, the anxious feeling was back.
Whence the anxiety? I was truly mystified. Too many (other) drugs? Not enough exercise lately? I’ve been fretting about problems with the ROX media server, but that didn’t crop up until Saturday. Maybe it’s the fact that all my friends are pregnant and I’m not. What could it be?
Perhaps I was nervous about my dental appointment. I never used to worry about the dentist, because I only ever had one filling for the first 35 years of my life. But I’ve had something like six fillings in the last two years. It was starting to freak me out.
I went in for a check-up this afternoon and got a clean bill of health. Tonight I feel much relieved. So maybe that was it.
Mike finished his 30th round of Scrabble yesterday. His final standing for the tournament: He’s ranked #118 in Division 1, having won fourteen games and lost sixteen.
That’s all for Mike. He and Susie hit the road back to Bloomington this morning. I enjoyed their visit. Of course XY found it a bit stressful, being as they’re her parents and all.
Today is also the final day of the Scrabble Championship. It’s just two people duking it out for the big title: David Gibson and Trey Wright. The final games can even be “replayed” on the Scrabble Association website.
Miike won five games and lost three today at the Scrabble Championship. One of his opponents scored a triple triple with the word defiling. A triple triple is a word that stretches over two triple word scores. 13 (for defiling) * 3 * 3 + 50 (for playing all seven tiles) = 167 points for that play.
Mike, my father-in-law, didn’t do quite as well today at the National Scrabble Championship. He won two games and lost five. Joey Mallick, whom I met briefly on Saturday, beat him 488 to 269, throwing down gantlope, nabe, smothery and peridia. Mike puzzled over all these, only challenging the last, but they’re all legit.
It started raining this morning shortly after seven o’clock, accompanied by one of the loudest thunderclaps I have ever heard. I dropped Mike off at the Marriott on Canal Street and then drove to work. It was the first time rain has interfered with my morning bike ride in months. I thought I should make a note of it; I’m curious to know just how many times a year this happens. I’d guess about four.
My in-laws are in town, and Pops is playing in the National Scrabble Championship, which started today. I just checked the Web and saw his standings. He’s in the top division, and as of today he is #60 out of 173. He said his best word of the day was agapeic.