My computer still thinks it’s in New Orleans, and so its clock has “fallen back” an hour.

But here in Indiana, clocks never change — as I well know, since I grew up here. Most Indiana clocks stay the same year ’round. The television schedule shifts an hour, just to remind us the rest of the country does things differently.

But that era is drawing to a close. Recent legislation means that Indiana’s getting in synch with the Daylight Saving Madness. (And make no mistake, it is pure foolishness.) Next time the country changes its clocks, so will Indiana.

What a shame.

If you’re interested in the issues at hand, check out What Time Is It in Indiana? I was impressed with this webpage years ago. It was started by a group of 8th graders right here in Bloomington. I’m happy to see it’s been maintained and has information that appears to be up to the minute.


A few days ago I got an e-mail from one of the higher-ups at the University indicating that I still have a job there.

The message was informal but said that the University “is having significant layoffs and terminations” and that I will be the only staffer in my unit “who will continue to receive full salary between now and reconvening in January.” They’re even giving me some tasks to work on now.

Honestly I haven’t been too worried about my job. I figured even if I got laid off there would be plenty of opportunities for good work in New Orleans. My skills are fairly portable.

I feel bad for my co-workers. I wonder what this means for them. Will they be offered partial paychecks for the next months? No paychecks? Will they have jobs in January? How could my unit exist without them?

A friend in New Orleans tells me that the Times-Picayune had a story about the cuts: 58% of staff, 36% of faculty. And already I’m hearing tales through the grapevine of who’s been cut and who’s been retained.

If I Was There

If I was in New Orleans today, I’d go to the Orleans Parish School Board meeting scheduled for this evening. One of the first items on the agenda is “Consideration of establishment Of Charter Schools on the West Bank (Algiers) of Orleans Parish by Algiers Charter Schools Association.”

That directly affects us, because Xy’s school is one of those in Algiers which might become a charter. If so, Xy could have her old job back. If not, then who knows.

I don’t know how I feel about charter schools in general, but I’m pretty certain this would be a good move for New Orleans Public Schools. In fact, it looks as though there’s a movement afoot to make all of NOPS into charter schools. I see Treme Charter Schools Association, Ben Franklin High School, Audubon Montessori, Priestly, New Orleans Math & Science are next on the meeting agenda for charter consideration.

This might be the end of NOPS as we know it. Given the massive problems at NOPS, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. Any move that dismantles beauracracy and creates more local control is in line with my values.

And everybody seems to acknowledge that good schools are key to any city’s success.

If I was in New Orleans, tomorrow I’d help clean up Canal Street. I helped clean up Magazine two weeks ago, and that was a fairly positive experience. I was looking forward to helping clean up Canal, which runs about a block from our house, but I had no idea it would happen so soon.

Of course I’d have to stop by the NOLA Bookfair afterwards.

But I’m not in New Orleans. I’m 860 miles away in Bloomington, Indiana. So if you’re there and you’re reading this, maybe you can go in my place.


Just got a call from Mr. McCann, the adjuster for our homeowner’s policy. I call him “the wind guy” because he’s covering the damage to our home caused by Katrina’s winds. Flood is covered under a separate policy with a separate adjuster.

Anyway, the wind guy says we’ll be getting $8,688 plus tax and some extras — basically just short of $9,000 — for the damage to our roof, ceilings and floor. We have a big hole in our roof where Katrina ripped out an exhaust fan, which led to rain getting into the house. The wind guy estimated we’ll have to replace the wood floor for the entire length of our 67′ hallway, or we’ll “never get it to match.” Obviously the fan itself needs to be replaced as well, plus miscellaneous damage to the roof and ceilings needs to be repaired.

Also $1,200 for our refrigerator, the one upstairs which didn’t get flooded but sat for a month in 90º heat with a freezer full of salmon and bratwurst.

Also $2,500 for our additional living expenses during the mandatory evacuation, including the multiple trips back and forth.

So, all told, about $12,700. That seems like a lot of money to me, but actually this should be the smallest chunk of our settlement.

Contents Claim

My mother-in-law is faxing the following claim to our insurance adjuster for the contents of our house which were ruined by floodwaters. I estimate our losses at $43,000. We were insured for $25,000, with a $1,000 deductible, so I’m expecting a full payout.

Utility Room: $13,000
Washer, dryer, bicycles, power tools, desk, magazine rack, Sunsetter awning, wall furnace, whole-house fan, water heater, table, chest of drawers, clothing, VCR, vacuum cleaner, word processor, La-Z-Boy, books, luggage, camping gear, sports equipment and games…
Bath: $5,000
Toilet, bathtub/shower, cabinet, health and grooming supplies, towels…
Den: $15,000
Television, computer, monitor, printer, scanner, desk, sofa bed, chairs, ottoman, coffee table, VCR, DVD player, stereo system, turntable, AC/heater, vintage fan, video camera, shelves, books, videotapes, DVDs…
Craft Room: $10,000
Cabinets, sink, refrigerator, dehumidifier, liquor, craft supplies, teaching materials, futon with frame, desk, shelves, books…

Radio Voices

If you want to hear what people in New Orleans are concerned about, tune in to United Broadcasters of New Orleans via WWL, the Big 870. In New Orleans you can actually get this on a number of different channels on both AM and FM, but the Big 870 can be heard in something like 20-odd states (at night, anyway). It’s also streaming over the internet. Fascinating stuff. The main format is call-in talk, interrupted by commericals and regular news breaks as well as press conferences, but mainly it’s people calling in with reports of what they’re experiencing on the ground in New Orleans and the surrounding area, what they’re worried about.

Listen for a few minutes every day, and you’ll begin to get a sense for the enormity of the challenges that the Gulf Coast region now faces.

There’s also Radio Algiers, which is a low-power “pirate” radio station which you can only catch in the Algiers Point in New Orleans (88.7FM) but you can also get it on the internet: Radio Algiers [mp3] or Radio Algiers [m3u]. (Only the second link works properly for me.) It has more of an underground, radical perspective.


Our friend James Conrad, not to be confused with the author of Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, is staying with us for a few days.

[Update: It’s been brought to my attention that Joseph Conrad wrote those books. I knew that. Really, I did. I think I was confused because James and I discussed Heart of Darkness a few times. He even borrowed my copy to read it.]

James is half-Mexican, half-German, all American and 100% old school New Orleans. His apartment in Algiers is largely undamaged, but he hasn’t been back to the city since he evacuated, just before the storm.

He really has no reason to hurry back. Holy Cross college, where he was studying, is not re-opening until January. James was taken in by a Good Samaritan in Senitobia, Mississippi, and he’s been hanging out there or traveling ever since.

Now his travels have taken him to visit us in Bloomington, Indiana. Having grown up in New Orleans, he finds the fall foliage a special treat, and the leaves are pretty much at their peak right now.

So today we took James for a hike out at the Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve. Beautiful, but I was amazed at how rough the trail was. Not quite what I remembered. I was worried that James wasn’t going to make it.

It’s a little stressful entertaining a guest when Xy and I have so many serious things to talk about.

An exacerbating factor is the strange sense of humor James has. He seems to think that pretending to be a rude, misogynistic bigot is funny. He’s going for shock value, I guess. It’s just an act, but it gets really old. I’ve tried to tell him. I wish he would be real, just be himself, because he’s actually a nice person behind that crusty exterior.

James, if you ever read this — take the hint, please!


(Oops — I accidentally posted a fragment of this from a rest area in Kentucky earlier today — a slip of the thumb.)

On the journey between New Orleans and Bloomington, I’ve always preferred the easterly route, through Nashville, as opposed to the westerly route, through Memphis.

Driving through the Nash is a bitch, but the route is hillier and thus more scenic than the flatter westerly route.

On recent trips back and forth, I couldn’t take the easterly route, because the I-10 “twin spans” were destroyed by Katrina. That changed a few days ago, when one of the spans was re-opened for two-way traffic. I was amazed at how fast this was accomplished.

So today I took the easterly route back to Bloomington. I left before dawn. That means I was driving through New Orleans East in the dark.

And what a vast darkness it was.

I knew that I was driving past mile after mile of residences and shopping districts and car dealerships. Yet everything was pitch black.

Once I got across the lake, I passed through the thickest damn fog I’ve ever seen.

As the hours and miles peeled away, I found myself driving into autumn, more red and gold leaves. And then the rain.


At 830 miles, the easterly route is 30 miles shorter than the westerly, but it took me 13 hours and 15 minutes — a quarter hour longer than my westerly drive down thirteen days ago.

Wow, has it really been thirteen days? I was in New Orleans for almost two weeks…

I’m back in Bloomington now. It’s good to lay eyes on Xy once more. Also our friend and fellow New Orleanian James Conrad is here for a visit. He wants to see some fall foliage, which is a bit of a novelty if you’re from a subtropical clime such as New Orleans.

And we’re all trying to figure out what’s next.

Body Parts

Met a guy from Mid-City this morning while eating breakfast at Slim Goodies.

He said he was working a job that sounds pretty gruesome: pulling bodies from homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. “Extraction,” they call it.

I was surprised. “Are they still finding bodies?”

“Oh yeah. More like body parts at this point. After six weeks or so there’s not much left that’s even recognizable as a human being.”

But he said the stink from refrigerators on his block in Mid-City was even worse than the smell of decomposing bodies he was working with all day long.

Somehow I managed to finish my breakfast.

The Electrician

My dear friend Mike Kaplan came by our house this afternoon to assess the electrical situation. You see, Mike is a licensed electrician, and right about now an electrician is the best friend you can have.

He looked things over and assured me that we could probably get the bottom level of the house re-wired fairly quickly — keeping in mind he has a list of 200 people who all need immediate service.

Of course, even if Mike got us straight tomorrow, we still wouldn’t have power from the power company, Entergy, for who knows how long. And we really don’t feel we can live at our house without power.

Now I just need to line up a carpenter, a plumber, a tilesetter, a sheetrock guy…

Blood in Her Urine

Xy’s been feeling poorly ever since I left Bloomington. She went to Promptcare and they found blood in her urine. Perhaps a urinary tract infection? But the test came back negative, so they had her come back in and pee in the cup again. Still tests positive for blood. So now she’s got to see a urologist.

My theory: bleeding ulcer. Xy’s theory: ovarian cyst.


The room we’ve taken to calling the “craft room” in our house used to be a kitchen. The previous owners built a new kitchen upstairs, but left the old cabinets, with sink, downstairs.

We never liked those cabinets. They were cheap and somewhat nasty. After the flood they were very nasty. Particle board doesn’t hold up well after being submerged in water for a couple weeks.

So it was somewhat satisfying to rip those damn cabinets out today. Getting the sink out was especially fun.

I also raked debris out from the walkway that runs along the side of our house. It may not fetch much in Nantucket market, but it fetches a great premium here! (Smites chest.) Seeing that debris every day was depressing. After raking I swept the area. Ended up filling about three garbage bags.

I met another neighbor! Charles was back for the day, checking on his house. As far as I know, he is the only black guy on the block who owns the house he lives in. Most of our neighbors rent. He said he’s coming back, but doesn’t imagine his house will be inhabitable for six to twelve months.

I had my first MRE for lunch. Chicken with cavatelli. Mmm.

Clean Magazine

I’ve been working on our house every day since I got here. It’s lonely work, and it can be a little wearing.

So today I decided to take a break. Instead of going into the Dead Zone that is my neighborhood, I participated in a massive effort to “Clean Magazine.” If you’re familiar with New Orleans, you know that Magazine Street runs about six miles, from the CBD through the Garden District and Irish Channel to Uptown, right through Audubon Park by the zoo and into the Black Pearl neighborhood. It’s dotted with restaurants and shops and residences, ranging from upscale to funky, and generally is a favorite destination for locals and some of the more discerning tourists.

A huge crowd of volunteers showed up at 9am. We were organized into small crews, each assigned to a particular block. I got the 2700 block. We were given N95 masks, gloves, rakes, brooms and bottled water. Each crew was assigned a few National Guard and sent to their respective block.

So, in a nutshell, I spent the morning cleaning the 2700 block of Magazine Street with a bunch of civilians and soldiers. Mainly we were removing debris: some garbage and an incredible quantity of fallen limbs and attendant twigs and leaves.

I was happy to be working with others instead of all alone, and by noon we had our block looking much better.

I heard that if this effort is deemed successful, they’ll be repeating it in other areas on coming weekends. Can’t wait ’til they hit Canal Street.