Hurricane Refugees

We made it out of New Orleans with our three cats and not much else. We’re now safely ensconced with the in-laws in Bloomington, Indiana.

We got up at 3AM on Sunday morning, packed a few things, choked down some hash browns, checked the weather reports, and hit the road by 5AM. Five hours later we got a hotel room in Winona, Mississippi. We were thinking maybe the storm wouldn’t hit New Orleans too bad, maybe we’d be able to return quickly.

Obviously, that’s not the case.

We spent the night in Winona, glued to CNN. When we woke up Monday morning and saw Katrina ripping the roof off the Superdome, we realized a quick return was unlikely, and decided to continue northward. We spent last night in Bloomington. Today we’re being inundated by Katrina rain here, too. There may even be flash floods in parts of Indiana.

It looked for a while like New Orleans had escaped the doomsday scenario, but then the levee broke on the 17th Street Canal. Our neighborhood is most certainly flooded now. We just don’t know how bad. The mayor says 80% of the city is under water. I’m worried about what’s become of our friend and neighbor Michael Homan. You can read what he posted to his blog before the power went out; it’s scary.

Calls to the 504 area code are problematic, so if you call our cell phone, you might not reach us. If you need to give a call, try 812-336-4656.

Sweet

I know school’s back in session, cuz I can hear the Warren Easton High School Marching Band. Right now they’re directly in front of our house, playing “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.” It’s a good thing I like that song. I’ll be hearing it pretty much every day from now until Mardi Gras.

They are LOUD and surprisingly tight for this early in the school year.

An All-Too Familiar Feeling

I had a little cold on my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but after that I didn’t get sick for years. This was a stark contrast to life in Indiana, where it seemed I came down with a cold every six months or so.

I thought maybe the subtropical climate agreed with me. Ha! Wishful thinking.

Yesterday I had what I thought was an allergy attack. By the time I went to bed it had turned into that familiar sore throat — the same sore throat I had back in May. And in March.

Today that sore throat has blossomed into what seems to be a case of the common cold. Lovely. If previous experiences are any indication, I’ll be down with the sickness for the rest of this week.

Doesn’t really seem fair to be sick three times in five months. Actually, it’s kind of freaking me out. Is there something wrong with my immune system?

PS: I went to get some cold medicine at Walgreen’s. Couldn’t find it. I was slightly feverish and thought maybe I was just having a brain malfunction. But it turns out that, thanks to the state’s new anti-meth law, it’s been relocated behind the pharmacist’s counter. I had to sign for it.

Tisha Isha

Students go back to the New Orleans Public Schools today. In theory anyway. In practice — but that’s another story.

The big hype this year? The tissue issue. (Pronunciation guide: tisha isha.) Yes, administrators are actually promising toilet paper will be on hand at every school this year! Amazing.

From the Sunday T-P:

A&M executive Sajan George, now the system’s chief operating officer, toured the system throughout the week, spewing orders and making promises, including the bold vow that every school bathroom will start school with toilet paper — a marked departure from past years.

As he made the claim at a meeting with 200 teachers late Wednesday afternoon, the room erupted in gasps and cries of shock. “I’d like to see that!” several exclaimed.

Xy reports that a hotline has been established just for toilet paper. If a school runs out, all they have to do is call the hotline, and someone will be dispensed to run down to the Wal-Mart and buy more.

I shit you not.

No Sweat

It’s hot in New Orleans. The sun is just blazing. It’s 91ºF, according to weather.com. 56% relative humidity. Heat index of 100ºF.

But the amazing thing is, I just rode my bicycle from work to home — and didn’t break a sweat. Not even a fine sheen of perspiration. Nothing. I don’t feel overheated, either.

It was a twelve minute ride, maybe a bit longer, though I can make it in ten if I try. I rode slow, keeping my heart rate low, just to see if it made a difference. I guess it did. Normally I’d be mopping my face with a handkerchief right about now.

N

Strange — there were only six movies on our list that started with “N.”

Good:

  • Night and Fog — 1955. Short and brutal documentary about the Holocaust. Why hasn’t the narration been translated into multiple languages?
  • Nashville — 1975. I’ve come to the conclusion that Robert Altman’s flicks just don’t translate to the small screen very well. I could see the genius of this, and I was impressed by it, but I kind of had to extrapolate the experience which was really meant for the big screen.
  • Never Mind the Bollocks — 2002. There’s nothing punk about this documentary, except the subject matter: surely the greatest rock album ever. The feature runs less than one hour, but the extras are every bit as interesting.
  • Naqoyqatsi — 2002. Think of it as a long music video.

Mixed bag:

  • No Man’s Land — 2001. Soldiers get caught in no man’s land during the Bosnian Conflict. Good premise, lackluster execution. Worth seeing once.
  • Napoleon Dynamite — 2004. Ummmm…. I really didn’t know what to think of this. I found it sort of stylistically confusing, and that was kind of nice. But it also seemed kind of repellent and stupid. Seeing the geeky protagonist get slammed up against the lockers brought back memories of high school.

Dentairie

Damn my dentist. Damn him! He has moved to Metairie.

I first chose this dentist about two years ago based solely on his location, just three blocks from our house. And, happily enough, he turned out to be a good dentist. Xy now goes to him as well, and we’ve even referred a friend.

But now he’s moved to Metairie. Personally, I hate going to Metairie — no offense to the people who live there — and I try to avoid it if at all possible.

Google Maps says his new office is 2.7 miles from the old one, and estimates it’s a six minute drive by car. Of course I don’t usually have access to a car, but today Xy got a ride with a friend (coincidentally the same one we referred to our dentist) in part to haul the guinea pigs back to school but also to allow me to have the car so I can get out to Metairie to have my teeth cleaned.

And on top of all that, he’s “out of network” on the University’s new health plan, which means I have to pay more…

All of which has me thinking maybe I need to look for a new dentist. Preferably one who will stay in Mid-City.

The Summer of Xy

For some reason, we designated this season as “The Summer of Xy.” I’m not sure exactly how or why, but I think it had something to do with Xy realizing a need to come to terms with some of those big “life issues.” Or maybe this was to be a season of celebration and wild reckless partying as a fling before that more serious work begins. I don’t know. I’d like to combine both celebration of the self and discovery of the self, but it’s not really about me. It’s about Xy. After all, it’s her summer.

Or it was. Summer vacation is almost over, but the heat goes on. Today, Xy and the other NOPS teachers went back to school for meetings and preparations. Students go back in a week or so.

So was the Summer of Xy a success? I don’t know. We certainly had some fun. But I’m ready for it to be over. I’m tired of Xy sleeping in while I go to work every day.

Chitterlings

I’m not sure exactly what chitterlings (a.k.a. chitlins) are, and I’m not sure I want to know, but I just had a plate-full at the Two Sisters Restaurant. I don’t think I’d order them again. Don’t get me wrong: I cleaned my plate. But I liked the greens and the yams and the potato salad a whole lot more.

It was our first time at the Two Sisters (not to be confused with the famous Court of Two Sisters in the Quarter). Seems like a pretty good place for soul food. Breakfast and lunch only, cash only, quite busy. I’ll have to remember to go back some Thursday for their rabbit special.

Xy had the hen.

Hen

One of the pleasures of summer is having lunch with Xy just about every day, usually at home. She goes back to school tomorrow, so this was our last weekday lunch together for a while.

It’s Official

Today, the Green Party of Louisiana became an officially recognized political party in the state of Louisiana.

Filing

Here’s to a greener future!

On a personal note: Wow. I was there at the founding of the Greater New Orleans Green Party, five years ago, and in the thick of the aborted first effort to form a state party which took place thereafter. I worked the door at the founding convention of the Green Party of Louisiana, when was it, three years ago? I was a delegate from Louisiana to the national convention last summer. I haven’t been as involved lately, but Leenie and Steve came by my house this evening with pix and video of the event, which I helped them get online. I was happy to be a part of the occasion in a small way.

Redistribution

As a rule, Parade magazine is remarkably devoid of interesting content. But Xy found the following tidbit in today’s “Ask Marilyn” column:

Q: If our country decided to pool everyone’s weekly paycheck, then redistribute it equally, to what would our income amount? — Ed B., Virginia Beach, Va.

A: We’d make about $37,784 annually.

I’ve toyed with this question in the past myself, but I always got bogged down in the details. Marilyn avoids all details and provides a cold, hard number. I wonder how she got it. So many questions come to mind, I hesitate to list even one. Instead, I’ll just say this would be a pay boost for Xy and a pay cut for me. I suspect it would be a pay boost for most Americans.

And, you know, I’d gladly take the cut if it meant the elimination of poverty.

Dick

Xy and I got to see the Philip K. Dick robot at White Linen Night. It was pretty cool. The back of Dick’s head was off, exposing a bunch of circuitry and animating mechanisms. This detracted somewhat from the verisimilitude but added an element of humorous absurdity, especially when the artist, David Hanson, explained to Dick that his “head-turning servos were malfunctioning.”

M

I already posted my thoughts on the seven “Man” films. Here’s the rest of the letter M. This letter was plagued by an abundance of technical problems.

Note: Of course, I loved Microcosmos and The Maltese Falcon and Magnolia and Midnight Cowboy and Minority Report and Manufacturing Consent and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and my all-time favorite Murder, My Sweet. But those are films I’ve already seen. The following are films I wanted to see, but hadn’t, until now.

Recommended:

  • Malcolm X — 1992. I can’t believe I never sawa this before. Parts of it seemed familiar, but maybe that’s because of my vague familiarity with Malcolm X’s story. Fascinating stuff.
  • My Life as a Dog — 1985. Sweet, sad, superb. And Swedish. I actually did see this at the Ryder film series back in the 80s, and it was every bit as good as I remembered.

Good:

  • Manhattan — 1979. I think this is Woody Allen’s best film, at least of the one’s I’ve seen.
  • Monsoon Wedding — 2001. Charming. I love weddings, and I’ve always wanted to visit India.
  • Mountains of the Moon — 1990. Uncritically celebratory of Europe’s exploitation of Africa, but an enjoyable tale nonetheless.
  • Mrs. Brown — 1997. Politically suspect, with its adulatory view of royalty, but another enjoyable tale of Victorian England.
  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town — 1936. Don’t care much for Gary Cooper. He was OK in this, but it’s very much Frank Capra’s movie.

Mixed:

  • Marnie — 1964. A not-very-good film by Alfred Hitchcock is still marginally interesting.
  • Marat/Sade — 1967. Complex and challenging. Radical play marred by bad transfer to DVD.
  • Matewan — 1987. I wanted to like this movie a lot more. Great subject matter (the Coal Wars of the early 1920s), but it deserves a better telling. Another inferior transfer to DVD.
  • Melvin and Howard — 1980. A good-natured loser gives a ride to an old bum who turns out to be Howard Hughes. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I’d known it was based on a true story. But really, this is mostly the story of Melvin’s life, and it seems somewhat aimless. The movie could have used more Howard and less Melvin.
  • The Mystery of Picasso — 1956. Watch Picasso paint a series of twenty works. That’s it — nothing but painting! I preferred the commentary tracks to the music. Probably of greater interest to painters and art students.

Disappointing:

  • The Maids — 1974. I found this Jean Genet play barely watchable. Another inferior transfer to DVD.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller — 1971. Altman’s alt.western flick. Again, not a great transfer to DVD. I think I might have enjoyed this more if I was strapped down in a movie theater and forced to may close attention to every detail. As it was, I found the hwole thing kind of a yawner.
  • Medium Cool — 1969. Required viewing for any serious student of the 60s, but mostly boring. Maybe I should have listened to the commentary instead of the regular soundtrack.
  • My Man Godfrey — 1936. Starts off interestingly, with some class tension, but quickly degenerates into shrill and tedious farce. Oh, it is supposed to be a screwball comedy. Overexposed film print, too.

Not sure what to think:

  • Mephisto — 1981. A brilliant German stage actor sells out to the Nazis. When we watched this I was a little drunk, and it was late, and I started nodding off. Plus, the DVD skipped about 25 minutes, so I think we missed a major chunk of the story. But I didn’t care enough to rectify the problem, so that tells you something.
  • McKenzie Break — 1970. After I put this one in the player I heard a loud pop and the screen said, “Bad disk.” When I ejected, I discovered the DVD was severely cracked! Could have gotten a replacment, but I decided I didn’t really want to watch this war movie.

Hmmm… Looks like we’ve made it halfway through the alphabet.

How I Like My Tea

Everything you need to know about me, you can learn from how I like my iced tea:

  1. Luzianne’s my brand. Besides tasting fine, it’s made by Reily Foods Company which is based in New Orleans. I like the idea of supporting the local economy. I nourish the hope that, in a more enlightened future, we’ll deem a successful economy to be one in which the distance between production, consumption and waste disposal is as short as possible. Alas, that’s not today’s world, where we burn vast amounts of nonrenewable resources just to get goods from Point A to Point B. And truth to tell I’m not sure where my Luzianne tea is actually made. Reily Foods has manufacturing facilities in Knoxville and Baltimore as well as New Orleans. And where is the tea grown?
  2. Sun-brewed. Cuz I’m a tree-hugging environmentalist. Using the sun’s energy to brew my tea — I think that’s really cool. I did a little research and found you can make solar cookers for food. Xy’s done it with her students as a science experiment: They put foil inside a pizza box, made a cellophane window to let the light in, and cooked hot dogs.
  3. Double strength. Cuz I’m a caffeine fiend. Yes, I use five or six tea bags per gallon instead of the recommended three. I also let it steep for an extra long time. The tea come out so strong it almost makes me sick sometimes, especially if I guzzle a couple large glasses on an empty stomach. But it gets me buzzed. It makes my bowels move. It alters my perspective on reality. But it’s not really as strong as coffee, which is nice, because if I miss my tea I don’t get withdrawal symptoms.
  4. Ice cold, but no ice. I’ll use ice if the tea hasn’t had time to chill properly, but I don’t like it, because the ice melts and dilutes the tea. I even went to the trouble of make tea ice-cubes to alleviate this problem, but the tea stains the ice cube tray.
  5. No lemon. I don’t know what this means, but it seems important.
  6. No sugar. I’ve been told this is a Yankee thing. Yes, I was raised north of the Mason-Dixon line. But I recall people in Indiana liked their sugar just as much as any Southeners. As for me, I’ve never had much of a sweet-tooth. Don’t really know why. In any event, I subscribe to the notion that refined sugar is, if not the Root of All Evil, at least a Very Bad Thing. I’m sure if I started to put sugar in my tea I’d grow to like it, and then couldn’t do without it, so I’ve never started. I don’t need the empty calories.
  7. Only in the summer. Come the colder weather, I’ll be drinking coffee.