White Boy

I just got called “white boy” as I rode my bike past the Iberville projects:

“White boy! White boy! Come here!”

Just like old times. I haven’t been white boyed since Katrina. Yes, things must be getting back to normal here in New Orleans. By way of contrast, just a month ago I rode my bike through the Iberville projects and encountered some young men smoking reefer on the sidewalk. I think they wanted to intimidate me, but they were off their game. They called me “bike boy.” It was kind of pathetic.

A Slave to the Dial

Once upon a time there was a webpage here called A SLAVE TO THE DIAL.

It was all about my experiences with DialAmerica Marketing, Inc., where I worked as a telemarketer for seven years.

I took the website down when I got a nasty letter from a lawyer.

I’ve been meaning to revise the site but frankly I don’t know what’s legal and what’s not. The lawyer’s letter has been analyzed by the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, which is helpful, but I’m still at something of a loss.

I guess these poems are OK.

I don’t see how anyone could object to these drawings of my old workstation, the office, and myself.

My cartoon about the Life of a Telemarketer may be stupid, but surely it’s legal.

Same with my interpretation of the corporate motto.

I’m not so sure about these pictures of my bosses, though I’ve made every attempt to conceal their identities.

What about this conversation and other select quotes from calls I made while working at DialAmerica?
What about these excerpts from my own private journal?

Would it help if I added a disclaimer?

Disclaimer: This site is neither endorsed, nor sponsored by, nor affiliated with DialAmerica Marketing, Inc., a fact that should be blatantly obvious to any adult human with a brain. DIALAMERICA is a registered trademark of DialAmerica Marketing, Inc. For more details, please read my full disclaimer.


It’s that time of year again.

I’ve been trying to muster up some enthusiasm for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I’ve been trying for years. But somehow I never seem to work myself up into the appropriate fervor. And if I am lacking in enthusiasm, Xy is downright negative.

When I admit that we are not members of the true faith, people look at us with a mixture of disbelief, disgust and horror. How can this be? How can we not be excited about Jazz Fest?

I do not hate Jazz Fest. I’m just not a big fan. But that is tantamount to heresy in these parts, and I have been scolded for it repeatedly. Indeed the opprobrium is so severe that I have looked deep into my heart, to try to fathom this mystery.
Continue reading Heresy

Boss Loss

On my first day of work here at the University, almost seven years ago, I asked my boss what time he wanted me in the office each morning. His reply: “Whenever — just be responsible.”

I knew right then that we would get along well together.

And indeed we have. It’s been a pleasure working with him. And over the years he’s become more than a boss, he’s been a friend. And better yet, he’s a handy friend. When I decided to install drop-down stairs for attic access, he actually did most of the work. He helped me fix my toilet. Speaking of toilets, he rescued Xy when she flushed her car keys down the toilet at Sears. He also helped me with a long list of more mundane household fix-up jobs. He even helped us move a couple times.

On the work front, I have a lot of respect for his integrity and diligence. He has always been extremely approachable and reasonable. I feel comfortable sharing ideas with him, knowing they will get a fair hearing. I also know that he values my perspective, and he has made me feel like my job is meaningful. An atmosphere of mutual respect makes for a good work environment.

I mention all this because it recently became official: He’s moving on. He and his family are seeking higher ground. He looked for a job elsewhere, and he found one. Michigan’s gain is our loss.

This was not an easy decision for them. It was difficult, and the reasons are complex, but it’s safe to say that Katrina had a lot to do with it. I’m sad to see them go, but I wish them well.

I’m gonna miss you, man.

Here’s to the Losers

Yes, it looks as though everyone I voted for yesterday lost, across the board, no exceptions.

I think I was most surprised, and disappointed, that Truehill came in dead last in District B — behind Landry, behind Quentin forgodssake Brown.

Of course, it ain’t over yet. Next month we do it again in a runoff between the top contenders in races where no one scored a majority.

Our next mayor will either be Mitch Landrieu or Ray Nagin. Given the lack of leadership coming from Nagin, I think I’ll have to support Landrieu.

But I don’t have to like it.

Beyond Beyond

The Beyond crew has come and gone. They consisted of an Australian director, a camera guy from Pittsburgh and an audio guy from Metairie. They shot an interview with us on Thursday, plus some scenes of us walking around our gutted basement. (Earlier in the day they got a termite expert to examine our damage, but I wasn’t there for that.) On Friday they got scenes of Xy working on a gardening project with some kids at school. Then they got some shots of me editing ROX video and uploading it to rox.com. (We had to fake it, because we still don’t have internet at home.) And this morning Xy and I did a ROX shoot, and they shot us shooting, and of course we shot them shooting us. Oddly enough Rob, the director, seemed mighty adverse to being on camera. Too bad for him!

It remains to be seen if viewers of their program will be able to discern the name of our program and the address of our website. They’ve got the footage to do it, but it’s in the hands of an editor in Australia. Hopefully there will be some collegial solidarity there. Us video editors got to stick together.

If we don’t get a spot of publicity for the site, I will feel burnt for letting them use our creative work (ROX #93). Actually I feel a little burnt already — they didn’t even buy me a drink.

Xy and I continued shooting even after the Beyond crew departed. I took the camera with me to our polling place and videotaped myself voting. It was really funny how this freaked people out. Taking a camera into the voting booth seems vaguely illicit, but I doubt there’s any law against it.

The voting went smoothly and there wasn’t even a line. Maybe Li’l Kimberley got her act together for once.

How I’m Voting

I’m deeply conflicted about electoral politics. I participate, and I vote, but I’m skeptical of the whole process, and it frustrates me.

I’m edumacated. I’ve studied up on tomorrow’s election. But I can’t say I’ve got any confidence in the decisions I will be making in the booth.

And if it’s hard for me, who enjoys so many advantages, how hard is it for someone who is under the heel of poverty or displaced from the only home they’ve ever known? What about someone who is functionally illiterate? The harsh fact is that’s where a lot of New Orleanians are at. They should be able to have a voice in this election too.

It is a charade. And yet I get caught up in it.
Continue reading How I’m Voting

Don’t Believe the Polls

I’m skeptical of the polls on the upcoming New Orleans elections. It’s difficult to conduct an accurate poll under our current circumstances. I’ve seen at least one that used pre-Katrina landline phone numbers. The flaws in that methodology should be obvious to anyone familiar with recent events here, but just to drive the point home: Such a methodology misses me. I could never be included in that sample because my landline hasn’t worked since the 17th Street Canal floodwalls failed.

Some pollsters are apparently using cellphones, but this too misses me. Like many New Orleanians, I only got a cell phone post-Katrina, during my evacuation. Since I was in Indiana at the time, it has an 812 area code. As far as I can figure, there’s no way a pollster would know to call my number.

I don’t like any poll that can’t count me. So I scoff at the polls.

Based on these polls, pundits tell us things like “this race is all about race.” This is often presented as the crude idea that people will vote for candidates of their color: blacks for blacks, whites for whites. As Xy and I have asked around amongst friends and co-workers, however, we’ve found virtually no support for any black candidate for mayor, regardless of the voter’s race. Most of the black people we’ve talked to seem to be leaning toward Forman. (Yes, it surprised us too.) This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom, that black voters will largely support either Nagin or Landrieu. In fact, I’ve only talked to one person who’s voting for Nagin.

I don’t mean to suggest that our informal poll is somehow superior to the polls I just criticized. It’s not. If anything, it’s much less accurate — wildly inaccurate, I’m sure. I’m just saying, take all these polls with a grain of salt.

Polls make some people feel like their individual vote doesn’t matter. Some people switch their vote based on polls. These effects strike me as undesirable even when polls are accurate. But this time around, when so little is known and so much is at stake, I hope people don’t pay the polls too much mind. Vote your conscience. Don’t try to game the system.

I think that’s a good philosophy, even if I’m wrong about the polls.

Beyond Inc.

I was contacted last week by an Australian television production company. They were looking for a termite-damaged house and they’d read about us in the Times-Picayune. They were interested in shooting a segment about us for a special on real estate disasters which they’re producing for The Learning Channel.

I told them if they wanted to see what Xy and I looked like on TV, they could watch ROX #93 online. They did, and they liked it a lot. In fact, it seemed to seal the deal. They’re headed down here today and will be shooting us over the next few days.

I suppose I should be kind of excited about that, but I’m not really. In fact I’m a little apprehensive. We’re letting them use some of our video, and I didn’t like the dickering over the accreditation. I want an on-screen credit saying “rox.com” at the time the video is used. They say that Discovery (TLC’s parent) just won’t allow that. I probably should have told them to kiss off. But the producer said they’d make it clear who we are (and where we are on the web) through the actual production. Plus I have a hard time saying no. We may actually get some good publicity out of it, but is it worth the stress of dealing with these strangers coming into our lives and making a TV show?


There’s a certain distinctive sound that a human body makes when it hits the floor, a kind of heavy thump. It’s not a sound you want to hear in most circumstances, certainly not when you’re just sitting around the house watching TV on a Sunday evening.

But that’s exactly the sound I heard last night, and it scared the hell out of me. I got up to investigate. It seemed to have come from the bathroom, and Xy was in the bathroom, or so I thought, but she wasn’t answering me. I barged in and found her lying face-down on the floor.

“What happened? Are you all right? Why are you on the floor?”

She answered: “I’m tired.”

Soon she regained coherency. It became clear that she had fainted while on the toilet. I won’t get into the details out of respect for Xy’s privacy but she almost fainted again before all was said and done. I thought I might have to rush her to an emergency room, at which point it dawned on me that I don’t even know where the nearest open emergency room is. Most of the hospitals in New Orleans remain closed.

Twenty minutes later she felt fine.

It seems like this is the second time this has happened, but neither of us had a very clear recollection of the first time. Was it last year or several years ago? I don’t think I was there.

I’m worried about her. But then I’m always worried about her. For a few minutes there last night, though, I thought she might be dying or something, and that was truly terrifying.

Inside Out Again

A follow-up article in today’s Inside Out in the Times-Pic:

NOTE: Bart Everson and Christy Paxson find that tough decisions are unavoidable as they repair the basement of their North Salcedo Street bungalow.
Continue reading Inside Out Again

Good & Bad Friday

Nice to have a holiday. I have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday off — an advantage of working at a Catholic institution. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on how close to “normal” our lives have become, despite the devastation that surrounds us.

We planned to meet some friends at the recently reopened Finn McCool’s for some drinks, to break my booze-fast and make it a Good Friday indeed.

But as we got ready to ride our bikes over there, we discovered that Xy’s bike was missing.

Stolen, apparently!

Xy was mad as hell, and of course our thoughts harkened back to that guy sniffing around our back yard.

Ah well. Perhaps our homeowner’s policy will cover it. In any event, we made it to Finn McCool’s and I broke my fast with a Guiness, a whiskey and coke, a gin and tonic, a whiskey sour and a tequila sunrise. And, upon our return home, a fine bourbon cut with mineral water.

All very nice, but I’d rather have Xy’s bike back.


If it’s not one thing it’s another.


There’s a slight plumbing problem at the house two doors down. It looks like the landlord is trying to get it fixed, but the result is a giant hole in the sidewalk full of raw sewage.

Update — Tuesday, April 11th: I called the Sewerage & Water Board, and they sent someone out within a couple hours. I happened to catch him on the street. He confirmed that this was raw sewage and that it was public health hazard, however it’s out of S&WB’s purview since it’s on private property. He suggested I call the city.

Update — Wednesday, April 12th: I called the New Orleans Health Department. They took the address and said they’d send somebody out.

Update — Monday, April 17th: A Sewerage & Water Board emergency response team showed up and started excavating the site in the late afternoon. They kept working until well after dark. I talked with them a bit. They said someone in the house had rammed an iron rod down the cleanout, trying to break up the blockage, and had succeeded in breaking the pipe. Or something like that. They also said the pipe was all clogged up with grease. They left a large hole surrounded by yellow tape with labels like “Safety First” and “Caution.”

Update — Tuesday, April 18th: Some of the same S&WB crew showed up this morning to continue the work they’d started last night.

Update — Wednesday, April 19th: The hole has been filled.

Holy Hell Week

I haven’t consumed an alcoholic beverage since Mardi Gras. A number of my friends “kinda sorta” gave up alcohol for Lent, but they all gave up on giving up some weeks ago, and they look at me with a mixture of amazement and annoyance.

Instead of alcohol, I’ve mostly been drinking mineral water. After sampling a number of different brands, Gerolsteiner is my favorite, no question. I think I like it because it’s so highly carbonated.

This is the last week of Lent. For my final act, I am going off coffee as well. I’ve been tapering off all last week, and today is my first caffeine-free day. Slight headache, but not to worry. I know what I’m doing. This is my Fourth Annual Coffee Reduction.

I’m looking forward to several days of blissful drug-free sobriety before I break my boozefast on Good Friday. Then I will descend back into a vortex of drunken depravity.

Inside Out

There’s an article about us in today’s Inside Out, the Times-Picayune’s Saturday home & garden magazine. Ironically enough, I still can’t get the paper delivered to our home.

Saturday, April 08, 2006
By Stephanie Bruno
Contributing writer

NOTE: Meet Bart Everson and Christy Paxson, who live on North Salcedo Street just off Canal Street. Though they moved back into the upstairs of their house in November, it was another month before they had power, and several more before work began on repairing the flood damage downstairs. We will drop in on them from time to time to check on their progress.
Continue reading Inside Out

Staff Institute

Normally we have a meeting of all staff at the beginning of each semester. But this semester is hardly normal; we had the meeting today. It was pretty emotional. I know I choked up when the VP of Finance made mention of those who’d passed away in the wake of Katrina. I was reminded once again just how extraordinary it is that we got up and running in just a few months and started classes January 17th. Our campus sat underwater for three weeks. Today I saw pictures for the first time. Since then, the University has done some millions of dollars worth of repairs, probably upwards of $40 million. Federal aid? A little: Apparently FEMA gave us $2,600 to help with the removal of flooded cars. More is coming, so they say — but it sure is taking a long time. Insurance? We got a partial payment only when we filed a lawsuit against the insurance company.

And then we got down to the mundane matters of sexual harrassment training. “Pornography has no place here or anywhere in your lives… You should not even do that at home.” Well, it is a Catholic institution after all.

The Stink of Death

Xy came home from Indiana on Wednesday. When she entered our house, she immediately noticed an unpleasant odor, something beneath my level of perception, but we couldn’t find the source.

The next day I noticed it too. We searched but still couldn’t find it.

Yesterday we made a more concerted effort. I noticed the smell seemed stronger near my office window. Xy investigated more closely, with a flashlight, and discovered the source: a dead rat, lodged between a bookshelf and the wall.

Dead Rat

Xy used a stick to dislodge the carcass, and I grabbed it (using gloves and a newspaper shield) and put it in a trashbag. Ugh. I’m not particularly squeamish, but I don’t like dealing with rodents, dead or alive. Yet I felt an absurd sense of pride that we handled this little crisis pretty well together, and I’m happy to report the stink of death dissipated almost immediately.

This is the second dead rat I’ve found in our house, and there was also one on the sidewalk next door a couple months back. It’s obvious we have a problem. At first I thought our cat Lucy was killing them, but I wonder. At my request, our exterminator threw some rat poison pellets around our attic when he was doing our termite treatment. Maybe it’s working.