Fiesta de Bebe

Today Xy and I hosted a baby shower for one of our new neighbors. She and most of the guests are Honduran.

It might seem ironic, hosting a baby shower, given what happened Wednesday, but actually Xy offered to host the event before she even knew she was pregnant.

Girls in the Front

The event itself was interesting. It’s always interesting, in an extremely boring way, to be the only person who doesn’t speak the language. It brought back memories — of living in Sweden, and of a few evenings here in New Orleans, years ago.

Boys in the Back

Mellow, Laidback Beats and Deep Thoughts

I haven’t seen our new neighbor Ashley since I talked to him a couple weeks ago. But I met another young African-American man living in that same building, right across the street from us. His name is Damien. He was hanging out on the sidewalk on our side of the street with Ovi, a young Latino man.

They were hanging out in the shade because they still don’t have electricity in their apartments, and thus no air conditioning. Apparently the landlord hasn’t gotten it together and so the tenants are unable to get Entergy to turn their units on. She’s still charging them full rent. I wonder if that’s legal.

As we were chatting about this and that, it came out that Damien was working on a CD. “I’m not a rapper,” he said. “I’m a poet.” A friend was adding some music to some of his poetry. “Just mellow, laidback beats and deep thoughts.”

Hot damn, I’d love to hear that.


On the one hand, it’s been good for me, not having internet at home since the flood. It’s been good for my tendonitis. Typing and clicking all day at work and all night at home isn’t good. Confining my internet access to the office has helped control my online habit.

On the other hand, I’m never truly cut off from the net with this Blackberry, which I’m using to type these very words. It’s pretty handy, but I’m tired of seeing the internet through this 2 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ screen. The software is adequate but no match for what one can do with a real computer.

So I think it’s time to knuckle down and get in line for some real internet here at home. We had BellSouth DSL before the storm and it was pretty damn good, but I’m pissed off at BellSouth for any number of reasons, and I’d rather not give them my business. I thought I’d wait for Earthlink’s citywide wireless service, but with the recent departure of the city’s Chief Technology Officer, I imagine it might be a while before that’s available in Mid-City. Cox cable internet might be more attractive if we were cable television subscribers; I’m also leery because I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who have been having problems with their Cox service.

So that leaves — what? Verizon Wireless? My boss has it, and likes it, but I’m not sure how fast or reliable it really is, or even if it’s available at my location.

I’ll need to do some more research. In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions. My one unusual preference is I’d like a relatively fast upload speed. I upload some large video files from time to time.


I spent today catching up, running errands that fell between the cracks over the last two days. It’s amazing how many things we’re juggling, and you don’t notice until something breaks the rhythm.

But the real excitement of the day is that Coleman came with his plumbing crew and essentially re-plumbed our entire house. Out with the galvanized steel. It’s all copper now. I even had them run a line up through the kitchen floor to the far corner where the fridge is, so our automatic ice-maker is actually working.

Washer Hookups

Another bonus: When re-establishing our outdoor spigot, they put in both hot and cold taps. I’m not sure why we’d ever want hot water out there, but if we need it, we’ve got it.

Hot & Cold Spigots


I’ve been trying to get my head around what happened. The timeline looks like this:

Xy and I started Officially Trying in early May. She might have conceived in mid-to-late June. She did the home pregnancy test last Friday, and upon seeing the positive result, got an appointment to see our Ob/Gyn Wednesday at 2 PM. She started spotting the very next day, Saturday morning, and immediately we wondered if she really was pregnant after all. The spotting continued off and on, with cramps, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We were concerned, of course, but Xy figured she’d just hold out for her scheduled appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

But Wednesday morning, around 2:30 AM, all hell broke loose. Xy passed a lot of blood and tissue. She even had the presence of mind to put put a chunk of the tissue in a bag for the doctor. I slept through all this, completely oblivious. She only woke me up later, when the cramps continued. They were so bad she fainted. We were certain it was a miscarriage, and we thought the worst was over.

We didn’t sleep much more. Later that morning Xy went to a friend’s apartment because we’re dogsitting while they’re on vacation.

I foolishly went into work. When I got there, I went into the men’s room and burst into tears. Then I realized I’d forgotten my keys, and had to get a co-worker to let me in to my own office. Soon I talked to my boss, who gently and quite correctly advised me to go home. I called a collaborator to cancel an afternoon appointment, and found I was barely able to leave a coherent voicemail.

I got back to an empty house. I called Xy and she seemed fine. But shortly thereafter, it became clear that the worst was not over. The blood, the cramps, the tissue — lots of it. When it subsided a bit she made her way home. That was around 10:00 AM.

Soon it got worse again.

I called the doctor’s office, something we should have done four days earlier. They asked to speak to Xy, which seemed reasonable enough, except that Xy was actually so distraught and disoriented that she wasn’t able to communicate the urgency of the situation. As a result, they scheduled us for an ultrasound at 1:30 that afternoon. I had to call back. I tried to explain what was happening. They told us to come immediately.

Once we got there, I tried again to emphasize the urgency, but the receptionist was unreadable. We sat in the waiting room for half an hour or so while other people who weren’t bleeding were called in for their routine appointments. Xy was worried that she was bleeding onto the chair. She’d already bled through one pair of pants.

Once we got to the examination room, the nurse and doctor were very concerned. They didn’t panic, but they could see the situation was serious. I give Dr. Schultis major props for walking us over to the hospital personally and taking Xy directly to Outpatient Surgery. Xy called this the “rockstar” treatment. It basically meant that she was able to lie in a bed rather than sitting in the wait room while we got her paperwork processed.

In retrospect, the overloaded healthcare system worked pretty well for us. We arrived in the doctor’s waiting room at 11:00 AM and the D&C was complete by 2:00 PM.

Xy was feeling pretty good by the time I got her home, what with the morphine and all. We watched some stupid show on television and went to bed early.

The doctor had said she might feel like a truck hit her the next day, or she might feel (almost) fine. I’m happy to say she’s at the latter end of the spectrum.

Today she was quite well, considering what she’d been through. In fact, she attended an all-day teacher workshop. Wednesday was effectively the end of her summer vacation.

It may seem hard to believe, but Xy isn’t too sad or upset about all this. She’s mainly relieved that the pain is over. I know her pretty well after all these years, and I don’t think she’s in denial. She never truly believed she was pregnant, and it all happened so quickly that she didn’t have time to envision the child or think of herself as a mother.

For whatever reason, I’ve been having more emotional issues. It’s not so much grief as shock and confusion and fear. I didn’t know this could happen. I was blindsided, and I think that’s why it scared the bejesus out of me. Seeing my sweetheart crouched in our bathtub, wailing in pain as blood gushed from her like a river — that memory is etched in my soul. I never want her to suffer like that again.

It’s outrageous to claim that I’m more upset than my wife. I know, I know. To hear me tell it, you’d think I was the one who had the miscarriage.

Those who know us intimately might understand.

Over the past months I’ve allowed myself to emote freely about the ongoing tragedies of Katrina. Tears have been my safety valve, helping me cope. It’s almost been a point of pride. I certainly don’t buy into that “boys don’t cry” bullshit.

Xy, on the other hand, has only really cried once since Katrina, and that was when we saw the remake of King Kong. She was mad as hell at me for taking her to that movie.

Yesterday, when all this craziness was happening, I kept feeling overwhelmed by emotions, and I found myself really craving a little of the old macho mystique. Xy needed me to be strong and reassuring. I guess I was — but, goddam, just barely.

Of course, telling yourself not to cry doesn’t work. The only mental trick that worked for me was telling myself that I was numb to it all. That held the tears at bay.

Today I took our huge load of laundry to the Bienville Washerateria. I laundered all the bloodstained clothes and towels from yesterday. I never mind going to the laundromat, which is a good thing since our washer and dryer were ruined by the flood. It gives me time to reflect. Today felt especially therapeutic. I got home and bawled my eyes out, and finally I’m starting to pull myself together.

Some will wonder why I choose to write about such painful stuff so publicly. Others will understand immediately. Some of us do our laundry at home, in private, while others do it at the laundromat where everyone can see. It’s not even a choice, really. It’s just who we are.

When we drove to the doctor’s office, Xy said we should think about adoption. On the way home, she was already talking about getting pregnant again. As the doctor was quick to point out, “The good news is that you got pregnant, and quickly.” He even said we could try again in a week, though the nurses said two weeks, and our book says several months.

I’m glad Xy is so resilient. Myself, I’m a little gunshy. I was ambivalent about procreation to begin with. Now I’m terrified of something like this happening again. The doctor explained (and friends and books confirm) that somewhere between 20 to 25% of pregnancies miscarry. First pregnancies are especially prone. It’s caused when the embryo can’t form properly, or can’t attach to the uterine wall. Odds are this wouldn’t happen again — but they’re not great odds. One in four or five pregnancies miscarries? I’m amazed the rate is so high.

I feel like God should tattoo a warning label on our genitals or something.

We can figure that out later. For now I’m so glad that Xy is safe and well, and I’ve been very touched by all the kind offers of support that have poured in through every channel.

Thank you.

Not Pregnant Anymore

Sometime around 2:30 or so this morning, I was awoken from my deep and blissful slumber by a cry from Xy. She was crumpled on the floor of the kitchen. She was feverish and felt like she was going to faint. A little bit later, she did faint.

Earlier, while I was still asleep, she passed a lot of blood and — well, I’ll spare the bloody details, but it seems pretty certain that she’s not pregnant anymore.

The bleeding or spotting that I mentioned on Saturday never really stopped, but continued intermittently over the last few days, accompanied by increasingly severe cramps.

Xy’s feeling better now. I can’t sleep, so I’m writing this.

This turn of events leaves me feeling nothing but sad.

Xy is scheduled to see the doctor later today. Hopefully we’ll get some good information, because this has all been a little scary.

Later: As I lay in bed, unable to sleep, all I could think about were how many Big Important Things I had to do today. But when I got into my office and sat at my desk, I couldn’t remember one. The lack of sleep and the drama of the trauma are taking their toll: I keep bursting into tears. To put it bluntly, I’m a wreck. So I decided to take my friend PJ’s good advice. I’m taking the day off to look after Xy and myself.

11:00: The bleeding and the pain haven’t stopped after all. In fact they’ve become so severe it’s frightening. We’re at the doctor’s office now, waiting to see anyone who can help. As a quite trivial side note, has been having some weird problems, and my Blackberry has been having some weird problems (presumably unrelated) which is making communication difficult on all fronts.

Noonish: The doctor was very reassuring but clearly very concerned. He sent us to the hospital for a D&C. If you don’t know what that means, trust me — you don’t wanna know. Fortunately the hospital (Tulane/Lakeside) is right next door. Unfortunately the medical system around here is universally overwhelmed post-Katrina. When the red tape couldn’t be resolved over the phone, the good doctor walked us over to the hospital, through the back door to Outpatient Surgery, and threw his weight around. Now I’m trying to shepherd her paperwork through Admitting. I’m waiting for my number to be called while Xy waits to go under.

2:00: Those who know Xy will not be surprised that she was cracking jokes as they wheeled her off. I just talked to the doctor, and he said the procedure was completed without complication. Now I’m just waiting for Xy to wake up so I can take her home. I guess the scariest parts of this whole thing are over. I sure hope so.

“Return to your trailer now.”

This is the most utterly outrageous thing I’ve read in a while:

FEMA does not allow the media to speak alone to residents in their trailers.

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” Rodi said. “That’s just a policy.”

I think that policy is called fascism.

This is so utterly beyond the pale that I’m having a hard time believing it’s even true. Part of me clings to the idea that this is some horrible mistake. If it is true, it is so grossly offensive that I hardly know what to say. If you lose your home in a disaster, do you also lose your First Amendment rights? You have to have a government agent monitor your conversations with the press? How can freedom-loving Americans allow this policy to stand?

I’ve got a video camera. I produce a TV show. I live next to a FEMA trailer site. I may have to put this policy to the test…

Hat tip: Humid City

Update: FEMA responds, FAIR critiques response (thanx, agitcorp)


There was only one Q movie on my alphabetical list: Quest for Fire (1982). If I had time for research I suspect I’d discover some serious philosophical issues with this film, but all the same I was deeply impressed by the ambition and imagination at work here. The dawn of humanity is a fascinating topic, rarely touched upon in cinema. I even went so far as to watch this film a second time with the director’s commentary, something I rarely do, and it remained a compelling experience. I have to give this one top marks for sheer audacity.

Unfortunately I added Quatermass and the Pit (1968) to my list at the last minute. Great science fiction concept, poorly executed. This one is crying out for a remake.

Of course, my list does not include films I’ve aleady seen. I’d already suffered through Q: The Winged Serpent, for example, many years ago. It’s not campy, it’s just bad.


While we were attending a workshop on restoring windows at the Preservation Resource Center this morning, Xy went to the bathroom and discovered she was bleeding.

My first thought was that she’s not pregnant after all, that her period just came late, and that yesterday’s test was wrong.

But I understand that false positives are rare.

It is possible that the bleeding could be from something else, like hormonal changes similar to a normal period or even implantation of the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus.

Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see what the doctor says.

An Unfinished Letter

On August 23rd of last year, one week before Katrina, I started a letter to the CEO of Aetna (my insurer through my employer). I’m preoccupied with other matters now, so I doubt I’ll ever complete this letter, much less send it.

An open letter to Dr. John W. Rowe, Chief Executive Officer of Aetna Inc.

Dear Dr. Rowe,

I got a packet from Aetna yesterday containing four booklets, well over a hundred pages altogether. The cover letter stated this was my “Aetna Summary Benefit Description,” and advised me to “read this document carefully and keep it in a safe place.”

Let me get straight to the point: I don’t have time to read 120 pages just to understand my health care plan. Neither do most people. It’s outrageous to ask people to cope with this much information.

I don’t have time to read this much information, but I thought I’d at least give it a shot. I opened up the first booklet. On the very first page, I saw a paragraph labelled “NOTICE.” The pragraph, in all capitals and bold type, read as follows:


I didn’t understand what this meant the first time I read it, so I read it again. Then I read it a third time. Still I was perplexed.

But I noted the cover letter also said that if I had any questions, I could call Member Services. So I did. And they had no idea what I was talking about. Turns out they don’t even have a copy of these booklets on hand. Isn’t that something?

And so I write to you to express my frustration and dissatisfaction.

No Shame

In the days following the failure of our flood control system, I was overwhelmed with a mix of emotions: rage, anxiety, despair, grief, determination, and shame. As time has gone on these emotions continue to resurface, and I see them reflected in my fellow New Orleanians and, to a lesser extent, our fellow Americans. Rage. Despair. Grief. Determination. Yet it’s my sense that shame has fallen out of the mix for many of us.

Shame is not a popular emotion in America, it seems. We like to get angry and point the finger at others, but to point it at ourselves? We’d rather not. And that itself is a shame, because feeling ashamed can be a first step toward self-examination and positive transformation.

What do we have to be ashamed of? Plenty.

A Festive Weekend

Imagine walking into a party full of people you’ve never met, but whom you know more or less intimately because they’ve been pouring their hearts out into their writing.

Brian, Lisa & Michael

That’s what the Geek Dinner was like. Although there were some programmers and other geeky types there, this event was dominated by bloggers. And as we all know bloggers are a special kind of geek.

I wish I could write more, but time presses, and fortunately others have written more eloquently than I could: Dangerblond, Adrastos, Maitri, Morwen, Loki, Oyster, Kalypso, Ray, Ashley, Sophmom, Lisa and especially Schroeder, who really articulates what this event meant. Thanks to Alan for playing host, and thanks to everyone for being there. I had a blast.

It was hard to top the Geek Dinner, but I think the Clay Therapy & BBQ on Saturday might have done it.

Clay Therapy

MaPó Kinnord-Payton is a ceramic artist, a co-worker, a neighbor and a friend. She came up with the idea for this event a year or two ago — a very simple idea: to invite the University community to play around with clay as a means of relieving some stress and having some fun.

In our crazy post-Katrina environment, this idea seemed better than ever, so I did most of organizational work to make the event happen, including fronting about $300 dollars of my own money for clay and food. I also had to cook lunch for about 35 people! It was great fun, and thoroughly exhausting.

Guerrillas in Our Midst

Somebody put banners up on the blighted grocery at Carrollton and Claiborne last night:

Carrollton and Claiborne

Walgreens has held the lease on this property for seven years. They haven’t done anything in that time to deal with this festering eyesore. I don’t know who put up the banners, but kudos to them. They are obviously trying to get the word out that Walgreen’s has not been a good neighbor.

Seven Years Blight

Walgreens wants to build on this site. And yet they’ve got a place just down the street at Carrollton and Earhart which they are abandoning.

The guerrillas hit that site too:

Walgreens at Carrollton and Earhart

Walgreens Kills Neighborhoods

Interesting that the guerrillas chose not to spray paint their message on the buildings, but on easily removed bedsheets. Isn’t that considerate? I wish Walgreens would show the same consideration to the community.

Update: If you’re interested in this topic, you must read Seymour D. Fair’s excellent analysis at Third Battle of New Orleans, with site plans and everything.

A Good Day

Today was a good day.

Our garbage was picked up.

Our mail was delivered.

The electricity only went out once, and only for a brief while.

Water pressure in the building where I work increased slightly, so we can now flush the urinal in the men’s room, if you pull on the handle for a long time.

Our contractor got some guys over to caulk and sand and prime the new wood on our house.

I attended a planning meeting in the morning that was entirely civil.

It rained three times, but despite the fact that I rode across town five times, it never rained on me.

And finally, no meeting tonight! I stayed at home and watched a movie.

Who could ask for more?