Key Flush

I got a panicked call from Xy. She had just flushed her keys down the toilet at Sears.

I was incredulous. “All of them?”

“All of them.”

The Sears employees tried to help, but there wasn’t anything they could do. It’s one of those high-suction toilets. The keys are long gone.

The problem is I lost my car key this summer while we were on vacation. It’s lying on the bottom of the St. James River in Missouri.

So I was thinking this was a big disaster. Certainly a big pain in the ass.

Yes, we had an emergency spare once upon a time. Xy was certain that it was long gone, so we’ve spent the last five months passing a single car key back and forth.

But on a hunch, I pulled a drawer from my nightstand, put it under a lamp where I could see properly (a flashlight search was unsatisfactory) and found the spare key almost immediately.

And so a major pain in the ass was turned into a minor pain in the ass.

Major props to my boss, who took time out of his evening to ferry me over the river on a rescue mission. Wotta guy!

Information Hole

Yes, we’ve got basic utilities: water and gas and electricity.

But we are still sadly lacking basic information services. We have no phone, no cable, no internet.

The newspaper won’t deliver to this area yet. Even the Post Office isn’t delivering to our neighborhood.

(At least there’s radio. But my favorite station, WTUL, seems to be broadcasting in lower fidelity. Somehow it seems appropriate.)

And there’s no timeline for getting these services back.

I’ve heard maybe February for telephone, but actually we’re not planning to get our phone service restored. Since the storm we’ve been depending heavily on our cell phones, and I’m not sure we have any use for a land line.

I’ve been typing this post while standing in line at the Mid-City Station Post Office. The lines have gotten much longer than they were a couple weeks ago. That’s a good sign: People are coming back. I just picked up our mail for the last week or two, including some Christmas cards and end-of-year newsletters from family and friends.

I also discovered there’s a form you can fill out to have delivery resumed to your residence. I filled it out, but another patron said she’d filled it out two weeks ago and still wasn’t getting delivery.

Xy = 37

Today is not only the four month anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. More importantly, it is Xy’s birthday.

We celebrated by dining at La Crépe Nanou. Our friend David took us out there about a year ago, and Xy promptly designated it as her favorite restaurant, mainly for their namesake dessert.

We had a good meal, then came home, and someone got his ass handed to him in a Scrabble challenge: 322 to 238. Ouch!

A Geisha in Munich

Xy and I wanted to see Munich on Christmas Day. It’s only showing at one theater locally, so we drove out to Clearview Mall for the first time ever — but the movie sold out just as we got there. Xy bought tickets for The Producers instead. Then she changed her mind and traded them for Memoirs of a Geisha.

It was an engaging story, I suppose, but the ending seemed tacked on and phony and left a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth.

Last night we went back out to Clearview and saw Munich.

I can’t remember when a movie has shaken me so deeply. It was more frightening than any horror movie I’ve ever seen, more intriguing than any spy film.

I would also say it was a notch up from Syriana, which touches on similar themes, in terms of storytelling and raw emotional power.

I understand Munich will open to wider release soon. I highly recommend checking it out.

My Xmas with Xy

Xy and I didn’t really exchange gifts this year. That is, I got her a gift but she didn’t get me anything. She’s a Scrooge, but I’m a sentimental old fool.

I stopped into an upscale used clothes shop on Christmas Eve and saw a cool scarf. I knew she’d like it. But I was taken aback by the price: $20 for a used scarf? I left the place empty-handed, but only got half a block before I decided: “What the hell — she’s worth it!” I went back, bought the scarf, and discovered it was actually only $6.

I considered that the equivalent of a $14 discount for true love.

Xy loved the scarf. Here she is looking fabulous with it:


I heard recently that “pitch-in dinner” is a Hoosier regionalism. In the rest of the country people say “pot luck dinner.” I don’t know if that’s true, but Xy made potatoes au gratin and we went to George and Pam’s for a Christmas pitch-in yesterday.

George had a remote-controlled Fart Machine which provided plenty of cheap laughs. But the food was good.

Afterward Xy & I took an exploratory drive to a part of New Orleans we’d never visited before: English Turn.

We saw a barge beached on the levee by Katrina’s surge. I’d heard about this, but had no idea where it was. So I took a picture:

Barge on Levee

Sweet Light

Take a nighttime drive down Bienville, from Galvez to Jefferson Davis. It’s dark. There’s a house with some lights near Tonti, another near Gayoso. Generators, I guess. There are no street lights. The Bienville corridor is dark.

Except for our street.

Sweet Light

When we got power restored to our house, it also resulted in two more street lights coming back on Salcedo.

So we’re in our own little pool of light this Christmas.

Holiday Lights

Seems like there’s some carol lyric that would be appropriate to quote here, about Christmas and light and so forth. But I can’t think of it.

We went down to the Quarter to get some oysters. It is Christmas Eve, and as far as I can recall it is the first Christmas that Xy and I have ever spent away from either of our families. I wondered what the Quarter would be like on Christmas Eve. It is surely the most sacred night in the American psyche, but far from our families we hardly know how to celebrate it.

So: Desire Oyster Bar, on Bourbon at Bienville. They had oysters, but no shucker. We got some turtle soup and some beer, a salad and red beans and rice. Then: down Bienville to Chartres, to a dark little bar called the Chart Room, for a couple drinks. Then: back up to Bourbon. We’re still craving some oysters. Bourbon House is closed. Acme is closed. Felix is closed. Damn. We end up at Arnaud’s Remoulade on Bourbon. The staff seems sulky and bitter at having to work on Christmas Eve, but the oysters are salty and delicious. Then: Molly’s on Toulouse for a couple drinks and an embarrassing game of pool. (At least it would be embarrassing if there was anyone around, but there isn’t.) Then Xy’s craving a dessert. We make our way down to the cooler end of Decatur, but Envie is closed. Eventually we find ourselves back the other way, at The Original French Market Restaurant. More drinks and more oysters (even saltier and deliciouser if that’s possible) and bread pudding and pecan pie and coffee. Mmmmmm…

And home. WTUL is back on the air, and we have electric light, and I’m having a little Wild Turkey, and it’s warm for December, and I’m with Xy in New Orleans. Who could ask for more?


While most of the country is busy shopping for family and friends, we’ve been (mostly) shopping for ourselves. We’re not particularly self-indulgent, we just need to replace what we lost in the flood, and we’ve got $25K of insurance money to spend.

In particular, we’re looking for a refrigerator and a vacuum cleaner and a television and, eventually, a washer and a dryer and a DVD player and some bicycles and power tools and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m not thinking of right now.

And it’s all so confusing. Have you seen what they offer in televisions these days? Being the kind of guy I am, I’ve been doing research online, when I can get internet access, putting my subscription to to good use. I’ve also been making the rounds to local retail outlets.

I don’t want to buy the shiniest appliance on the shelf. I want stuff that is energy efficient and high quality and well designed and a good value.

I already bought a printer in a hurry, and I wonder if I really got the right one. It’s an Epson Stylus Photo R340. Actually I bought a different model and returned it the next day for the R340. It seems pretty good so far, but in retrospect I’m thinking I should have gotten an HP or a Canon. In the same rushed moment, I also bought an uninterruptible power supply, a Geek Squad GS-1285U. No buyer’s remorse there, at least not yet.

I’m taking my time, shopping around and hoping to become better educated before I spend our money.

If anyone out there has any personal recommendations, by all means let me know.

Idle Threat

A while back I got an angry message via the website. The writer demanded the immediate removal of “my image and any mention of me” from the website, and threatened legal action. The message was not signed, and the return e-mail address was obscure.

I wrote back and said I was sorry to hear it, but who are you anyway?

Shortly I received confirmation of the sender’s identity. I don’t want to tell his name, but it starts with Russ.

So, after consulting with J, I wrote back:

Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been busy gutting my flooded home here in New Orleans.

I wish I could say it’s good to hear from you, but obviously you’re mad at us and that’s not good. I’m sorry that you feel that way.

However, upon reviewing the whole situation, we don’t really understand where you’re coming from. Quite simply, there’s nothing objectionable in your appearances on the ROX television show or on our website.

To the contrary, I really get a kick out of what you contributed to the whole project. You have a dynamic, charismatic personality and it really comes across.

Anyway, legally there’s no case here, and we remain committed to maintaining a website that accurately and completely indexes the content of the TV series, including all the dramatis personae, and that includes you.

Perhaps you would like to add some production notes to the site, regarding your ROX experiences? I have set up an account for you with username **** and password ****. Feel free to login to the site and add some production notes.

Now I’ve gotta get back to fixing up my house. We are just now getting electricity turned back on after almost four months. Hooray!

I sincerely doubt he could get a lawyer to pursue this. He appeared in the show of his own free will, we simply presented him “as is,” and that was over ten years ago.

A Solstice Miracle

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. We’ve been getting up before dawn since Xy started back to school. Without electricity, that’s kind of a pain. The first thing I do in the morning is light an oil lamp. So I’ve been looking forward to the days getting longer.

This morning was extra fun because Lucy’s got diarrhea. Nothing beats stepping barefoot in a cold puddle of stinking feline fecal matter in the dark.

I would have taken Lucy into the vet, but they couldn’t take her until tomorrow. So, after dropping Xy off at school and getting some breakfast, I was puttering around the house and not feeling very productive. I was cold. I wanted to take a hot bath.

I noticed someone working on a neighboring house. I figured if I took a hot bath, they’d find some reason to knock on our door.

I took a hot bath anyway. Sure enough, a knock came within minutes.

I hopped out of the tub, wrapped a towel around myself and dripped my way to the front door. To my utter amazement, it was an Entergy guy come to hook up our electricity. He was only two days late instead of two weeks!

A good thing I’d been home after all. Our electric meter is behind a locked gate. If I hadn’t been there to unlock it, who knows how long we’d be set back.

He disconnected our generator (to prevent potentially fatal “backfeed”) and removed some plastic sheathes from inside the meter. Then he took a great long telescoping rod and flipped a transformer shut atop a nearby utility pole.

Now we have power. I danced and sang and generally acted a fool. It’s been almost four months, but we’re back on the grid.

I plugged in our holiday lights. Normally I call them Christmas lights, but this year I’m calling them holidays lights to annoy Bill O’Reilly.


I got my first haircut since Katrina today, at a little barbershop in the Seventh Ward called Unifiers Soul Brothers Hair Styling.


The artwork in front of the place was wild, and I knew I had to patronize this establishment.

The Destruction of Black Civilization

The barber was a man named Mr. Percy. He was wearing a Santa hat and listening to R&B Christmas tunes.

Mr. Percy

My neighborhood barbershop was flooded, alas. But so was Mr. Percy’s, about waist deep. He pulled down the paneling, cleaned it, dried it, painted it, and put it back up.

Mr. Percy evacuated to Austin, Texas, and said he wished he’d stayed there a while longer. He could have made some money.

“Business is slow?” I asked.

“Completely dead!”

He was confident that people will return in time, but he moved back too soon. After Hurricane Betsy (40 years ago) he had so much business that people had to take numbers.

I got a pretty good haircut. He shaved around my ears with a straight razor.

But I miss my old barber, Lou. Will I ever see him again?

Not So Inevitable After All

Hmmm… I guess I was wrong when I talked about the “air of inevitability” regarding the position of webmaster for the University.

The VP of IT e-mailed me back this morning and said she’s going to “pursue a different path.”

Say what? This really threw me for a loop, especially since she didn’t give any further explanation.

I don’t know what’s going on here. It’s strange to say the least, as I thought the job had been offered to me if I wanted it.

Was it something I said? Was it something I failed to say? Did I ask too much? I don’t think so: My requests were not framed as demands. They were reasonable and open to negotiation.

I’m a bit disappointed, not to mention surprised, not to mention curious. And confused.

Gulf Coast Levees and Arctic Oil

According to a story in the Biloxi Sun Herald:

Proponents of ANWR drilling are attempting to use Katrina relief to help push through a measure they’ve supported for more than 20 years. The ANWR proposal includes a provision to devote a portion of government revenue from drilling to improve the levee system protecting New Orleans and for other disaster prevention along the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi.

So we have to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling in order to pay for improving our levees? I understand politics is all about compromise, but this makes no sense to me. If Louisiana just got a fair share of the royalties from the gas and oil drilled off our own coast, we could pay for all this stuff ourselves.

Dithering and Dickering

On Thursday I got a phone call I’d kind of been expecting, but which still caught me by surprise. It was the VP of IT at the University, asking if I wanted to be the webmaster.

See, I’d figured they’d offer me the job when PJ decided he wasn’t coming back. It’s a small campus, and with PJ gone I’m the staffer with the most web development experience.

I interviewed with the VP on Friday morning, and I’ve spent the weekend mulling it over. The job is mine if I want it — but do I?

I have been looking over PJ’s shoulder for three years. Heck, I was on his hiring committee. I’ve advised him since day one and often wondered how I’d do if I had his job.

I’ve also thought, many a time, that I was glad I didn’t have his job. He has had many successes but also many frustrations along the way. The University is somewhat “old school,” not quite embracing the value of the web. Webmaster is a highly politicized position, a lightning rod for controversy and criticism.

I’ve really enjoyed my own job as a multimedia artist. I work with faculty, mostly one-on-one, and I’ve gotten to pursue a lot of fun, creative projects. I have had a great relationship with my boss and co-workers, and I have a pretty nice office.

Then again, I’ve worked that job for six years. Lately I was starting to wonder what’s next. I’ve felt the need for a new challenge.

The prospect of the new job would offer a fresh challenge, more money, arguably more prestige, and certainly more headaches.

It would also offer more security. The University will need a webmaster for the foreseeable future, but “multimedia artist” seems like it could end up on the chopping block. Most of the staff in my unit has already been laid off because of Katrina.

The whole affair seems to have an air of inevitability about it. If I don’t give the webmaster job a try, I’d always wonder how I’d have done. When faced with choices like this, my response is fairly predictable.

So, after much dithering, I’m dickering. I’ve asked for two things: I’d like to report directly to the VP of IT, and I’d like a nicer office than the windowless cubbyhole to which PJ was consigned.

I just sent an e-mail to this effect. And now, I wait for a reply…

Power Next Year

Yesterday, after a wait of two weeks, our electrical work passed the city inspection. It’s up to code, and we’re ready to take power.

(Even when we do get powered up, we’ll only have electricity in about half of our upper floor. Sometime later in 2006 we’ll have to get the rest of the house rewired, which will cost around $10,000.)

Today, I called Entergy to schedule the re-establishment of our electrical service. To my surprise, they already had the paperwork. They said we’re scheduled to get “turned on” Monday.

Hooray! But put the cork back in that champagne bottle: The electrical crews are waaaay backed up. We will probably not get power on Monday. In fact, the delay looks more like two weeks from Monday — also known as next year.

So it looks like our Christmas will be illuminated by oil lamps and our New Year will echo with the reverberations of our generator.

Bush Makes Good?

Very good news:

The Bush administration has decided to support making levees in New Orleans stronger than before Hurricane Katrina struck

I still can’t overcome my ingrained skepticism to anything coming out of this (or any) administration. But this looks like a much-needed boost to the entire Gulf Coast region. Businesses and homeowners have been waiting for a signal such as this before re-investing in New Orleans.

A Ballot in the Head

There’s a climate of anger and anxiety in New Orleans these days, and amongst displaced New Orleanians wherever they are. There’s also a heightened level of political awareness. People are paying more attention to their government, and they’re pissed off at every level of government: local, state, federal, you name it.

In our supposed democracy, that should be a recipe for a changing of the guard. Many of us feel our so-called leaders have failed us. We want new leaders.

We were supposed to have an election here in February, for mayor and city council and I’m not sure what else. But the elections have been postponed indefinitely (by the state of Lousiana), a decision which is now being disputed in court.

I think that’s terrible. We need to have the elections on schedule. Yes, plenty of people will have to vote absentee. Yes, there are many logistical challenges given the flood damage here.

But the big headline of the day is how there’s been a strong turnout for the elections in Iraq.

If we can sponsor elections in Iraq, why can’t we do it in Louisiana?

Back to School (Again)

Today was the first day of classes at several schools in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, including Xy’s new school. It’s big news. That’s because these new charter schools — the Algiers Charter Schools Association — are billed as a bold new experiment for the city.

I don’t know quite what to think of the whole charter school concept. They’re essentially public but with some features of private schools. I was initially skeptical because it shuts out the teachers union. But then again, the union has often seemed to be a part of the problem. And insofar as charters decentralize the massive bureaucracy of the New Orleans Public Schools, I’m all for ’em.

Xy says she had a good day, perhaps the best “first” day she’s ever had. Actually it was a half day.

She had 40 students in her room today. One was white, three were Asian (Vietnamese), and 36 were black. She’ll be sharing these kids with another teacher, but that assignment hasn’t been made yet.

They’ll be doing half days for the rest of the year, assessing where the students are at and planning. And then in January they’ll start into a full day program.


Just got off the phone with our mortgage company, US Bank. Right after the storm they told me we’d have a six-month moratorium on payments. But I just learned two important points:

  1. The moratorium is only three months. In other words, it’s already over.
  2. They want those three months paid back over the next six months. In other words, our monthly payment just went up by 50%.

We can roll with it, but still I have to say: Ouch!

(Thanks to Andrea for giving me the heads up on this issue yesterday, so I wasn’t completely blindsided.)

Black and White

There are three elementary schools opening in the newly formed Algiers Charter School Association.

Xy attended a mass meeting the other day and observed that one elementary school has a white principal and one has a black principal. All the faculty at the former school are white. All the faculty at the latter school are black.

As for the third school, where Xy will be teaching: The principal is a Creole — a woman of mixed race. And at this school the faculty is roughly half black and half white.

I feel, like George Costanza, that I “shouldn’t be talking about this.” But it strikes me as both funny and sad, disappointing and inevitable.

Xy has also observed that, at her school with the mixed faculty, the teachers tend to hang with their own racial groups. The black teachers sit with the other black teachers; the white teachers sit with the other white teachers. They’re not racists. People are just most comfortable around people who are “like them.”

Nevertheless, Xy has made a point of sitting with the black teachers. It’s a small attempt to promote interracial solidarity.