Before the Law

After my bike was stolen last week, I walked to work and then called the cops from my office. I was told I would need to call back from the scene of the crime, since an officer would need to come by to file the report. Can’t be done over the phone. I would need to call when I had a block of time free to wait for the officer.

I called back again a couple days later when I figured I could afford to stay home for a few hours if need be. This time I was asked if I had proof of ownership for the bike. I allowed that I could probably dig something up. I was told to call back when I had it.

When I bought my new bike, I asked the dealer if they had any record of my previous purchase. They hunted around and printed out a receipt for me.

I called the police again. This time I was asked if I had the serial number for the bike. “What? I need the serial number? Absolutely, I was told. Can’t file the report without it.

I got back in touch with the bicycle shop and asked if they could chase down the serial number. They did, and they got it to me this morning.

So today I called the police for the fourth time.

I was asked when the bike was stolen.

“Last Sunday,” I said.

The operator was incredulous: “And you’re just calling now?”

She took my basic information and said I’d get a return call from an officer.

It didn’t take long. The officer called me and took more detailed information for the report. Of course he asked when it was stolen, and when I told him, he was amazed. “And you’re just calling now?”

He didn’t ask for the serial number.

He didn’t ask for proof of ownership.

It was all done over the phone; he didn’t need to come by the house.

Huh.

He did give me the report number, which my insurance adjuster wants. Oddly enough, when Xy filed a claim for her stolen bike, they never asked for a police report.

Now, it might sound as if I’m complaining about our messed-up law enforcement system. But I’m not, and let me explain why. Xy got a traffic ticket this summer. I tried to pay it on-line — no-go. I tried to call the informational number — no-go. I got an alternate number — no-go. So Xy shows up at the traffic court on the deadline day, only to find that location has not re-opened post-Katrina, despite what it says on the ticket itself. (But after all, the ticket pointed us to the website and the phone line.) So Xy goes to the alternate traffic court in Algiers the next day, busts her ass to get there five minutes before closing, falls down in her mad scramble to get there — she’s covered in dirt — she’s bleeding — and surprise! Traffic court shut down half an hour early, just for the hell of it. She’s stunned. She’s practically going into shock. Fortunately someone saw her and took pity on her (she’s not shy about playing the “public school teacher” card) and voided the ticket.

Yes, the system is messed up, but it cuts both ways.

My Katrina Timeline

I’m foregoing the many memorial and remembrance services going on around the Gulf Coast today. The President of the United States is making an appearance just a few yards from our house, but I don’t care. I’m observing the one-year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall in my own way. I’m breathing deeply and reconstructing my personal Katrina timeline. I want to record what’s gone on in our lives over the last year, compactly in one place, and see what it adds up to, if anything.

  • Friday, August 26th: Xy and I went out with our friend David for dinner at Zydeque (delicious) and the movie Grizzly Man (creepy). Little did we know this would be our last normal night in New Orleans.
  • Saturday, August 27th: Got the morning paper off the front porch and saw Katrina was headed right for us. This was the first I’d heard of the storm. Within an hour I’d planned our evacuation route, before Xy even got out of bed. We decided to get up early Sunday and check the projected track and make our decision then.
  • Sunday, August 28th: Got up at 3:00 AM and decided to bug out. As I wrote that morning, “Worst case scenario: Lake Ponchartrain floods the city, and our neighborhood is under many feet of water for many weeks to come. We wouldn’t want to be here for that.” Hit the road by 5:00 AM. By 10:00 AM we were in Winona, Mississippi. I had the presence of mind to videotape our evacuation, but not to bring any valued possessions up from the basement.
  • Monday, August 29th: We woke up to see Katrina tearing the roof off the Superdome on CNN. We figured it might be a few days before we’d be able to go home. So we decided to head on up to Bloomington, Indiana and bunk with Xy’s parents. By the time we got there we’d learned the breaches of the industrial canal were flooding the Lower Ninth Ward. We wondered about our friend Gina, who’d just bought a house there.
  • Tuesday, August 30th: I was sleeping in. Xy told me their was news of a levee breach. I thought they were still talking about the industrial canal, but when I got up I learned it was the outfall canals and that most of the city was flooding. I knew then that our neighborhood was flooded, but still clung to the insane hope that our house was dry. Katrina rain fell in Bloomington, and there were a few flash floods in Indiana. It begins to sink in that we are hurricane refugees.
  • Wednesday, August 31st: I remember walking around my in-laws’ suburban-style subdivision, overwhelmed with rage, grief and shame. Xy and her mother went shopping for clothes as it became obvious we wouldn’t be going home anytime soon, and we didn’t bring much with us.
  • Saturday, September 3rd: Absurdly, I attend my 20th high school reunion. I never intended to be in Indiana at that time.
  • Early September: I learn that Michael, who rode out Katrina in our neighborhood, is alive and now in Omaha. We move into a house on the East side of Bloomington, with a free month’s rent graciously donated by Tim and Sue Mayer. Xy gets a job in the local school system.
  • September 15th: I learn from an online resource that our neighborhood is completely drained of floodwaters.
  • September 16th: I do one day’s work on a renovation for $9 an hour.
  • September 23rd-27th: Michael and I make a trip to New Orleans to check on our homes and retrieve some possessions. Hurricane Rita makes landfall in western Louisiana just as we get there; Rita’s surge refloods the Lower Nine. We stay at Howie’s and sneak in to Mid-City twice. Michael helps me remove most of the flooded possessions from our house.
  • October 9th-21st: I borrow Dad’s truck for a solo flight back down to New Orleans. I stay on David’s futon. Most days I go to work on my house. It’s exhausting, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking work but it makes me feel better. A bright note: Waiting premieres at the Prytania.
  • October 29th: The first day I didn’t cry in two months. I will shed many more tears in the months to come, but for a couple days in late October, my eyes were dry.
  • October 30th: I learn I’ve still got a job at the University.
  • November 16th-17th: Xy and I move back to New Orleans. We drive in separate cars (one, a rental) because I “rescued” too many items from our house.
  • November 17th-December 3rd: Xy and I stay at David’s while working on our house. Our cats live at our house, but we only sleep there on warm nights.
  • December 4th: With gas back on, we’ve got heat and hot water, and we officially move off David’s futon and back into our house. We have no electricity and no neighbors. Indeed there are neither people nor lights for many blocks in every direction. But we are not afraid. Somebody has to be first.
  • December 5th: Xy gets a job in the new Algiers Charter Schools Association.
  • December 21st: Our electricity is turned on, a couple weeks earlier than we expected.
  • January 2nd: Mail arrives at our house again.
  • January 4th: We have neighbors. Ironically, they’re Mexicans from Indianapolis.
  • January 9th: I return to work.
  • January 11th: The mayor’s Bring New Orleans Back plan indicates neighborhoods will have four months to prove their viability. As we’ll all learn, however, the BNOB planning process itself proves not to be viable.
  • January 17th: School starts at the University. Sophmom has said that the re-opening of New Orleans colleges has been the single most hopeful moment in the recovery so far, and I tend to agree.
  • February 28th: Most meaningful Mardi Gras ever.
  • March 20th: Work begins on the renovation of our house.
  • May 31st: I post a rough skeleton of a recovery plan for Mid-City.

And… hmmm… could that be it? Work on our house continues. Work on the recovery plan continues. Plenty of other things have happened and are still happening, of course. It’s Katrina every day down here. But compiling the above timeline makes me feel better. I see a little progress. The dramatic points of my personal experience are getting farther and farther between — and that’s a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong. New Orleans is still in a precarious state. , not by a long shot. They still don’t have potable water in the Lower Ninth Ward. A couple hundred thousand New Orleanians remain displaced from their homes. In my own neighborhood, there are more rentals becoming available, but the majority of houses still stand vacant and empty and uninhabitable.

Strangely enough, we feel forgotten. This feeling persists despite the barrage of media coverage, despite the fact that we know most Americans remain sympathetic to our plight. Why do we feel this way? Perhaps, in part, it’s by way of contrast to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I hate to make that comparison in light of Nagin’s recent gaffe, but it’s hard to avoid.

As David Rutledge notes,

People do not know how to think about this disaster. There is nothing for people to latch onto. There were no toppling towers. No great symbols of the destruction. The date does not resonate. August 29 — 8/29. Plus, that is not even the date of most of the destruction. The levees broke, the city sank, and the houses sat and soaked for days after that. There were no great leaders, not even leaders who were great for a day.

As Marc Pagani observes,

I remember after 9/11, I saw big warehouses with American flags painted on their sides and the words ‘9/11 – NEVER AGAIN.’ Will we ever see signs like that in relation to New Orleans? What would they say?

This is not to discount the thousands of volunteers who’ve come down here to help us. Some come for a day, some for a week, some have moved here. Thousands of Americans have supported us in other ways. We’re very grateful. Thank you, all.

And yet I know from past experience that anytime I post something like this, there’s a good chance someone will come along and call New Orleans a “cesspool,” not worthy of rebuilding. Such hatred is hard to stomach.

Down here we’re doing the best we can. This one-year mark is not the end of the story. It’s only the first chapter. We’ll be recovering for the rest of our lives. We will do so with passion, creativity, love and imagination. Join us if you dare, or watch from afar. I promise you one thing: It won’t be boring. It will be the story of the century.

And we’ll have a great soundtrack.

Yes, It’s the Yes Men

I got an e-mail yesterday morning announcing a bold reversal of policy by HUD. They were planning to re-open the shuttered public housing projects and allow residents displaced by the flooding to return home! I get so much e-mail I often scan things quickly, but this caught my eye, particularly the part of the press release where HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson is quoted as saying, “We were wrong to prevent people from returning home.”

A public official admitting he was wrong? Something smelled fishy.

I forwarded it to some friends and neighbors who quickly noted that the press release linked to hano.us, but the official site of the Housing Authority of New Orleans is hano.org.

And then it dawned on me: This must be the work of the Yes Men. I knew they were in town to show their film at Zeitgeist tomorrow night. This was just the kind of prank that’s become their trademark. So I shut up, sat back, and watched events unfold on the evening news.

The press release was just the tip of the iceberg. They also impersonated a HUD official at a local event with the mayor and governor in attendance. You can read about the prank on CNN or WWL or the Times-Picayune, or check the pictures and video of the event on the fake HANO site.

Sweeter Ride

Giant Sedona LX

I got my new bike from Adam’s. It was ready about ten days earlier than expected. I’d wanted to get the same bike I’d had before, a Raleigh Venture 5.0. But I guess the factory was out of stock, at least in my size. So I ended up getting the comparable model from the competition: Giant’s Sedona LX.

So far, I’m very impressed. It seems to ride even better than the Raleigh. Perhaps I’m simply seduced by the shiny new gears.

Chain

Gears

But I don’t think so. It feels rock solid. Let’s see. It’s got a 23″ Oversize ALUXX butted FluidForm aluminum frame, an SR Suntour Magnesium 75mm fork, Shimano push-button shifters, Hayes MX-2 disc brakes and MTB Comfort Anti-Puncture 26 x 1.95″ tires with Slime Sealant-Filled Tubes.

Slime

Disc Brake

Yeah, I think this will get me around town. It cost a few bucks but it’s worth it. This is my primary means of transportation. And I won’t be leaving this on my front porch where it can be stolen. They’ll have to break into the house if they want to get their hands on this one.

PS: A big thanks to Elliott and Wink for the loaners.

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal.”

I’m famous at last, quoted in an article on the Village Voice website by Anya Kamenetz, a former New Orleanian.

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal,” says New Orleans resident Bart Everson. His house, which took on five feet of water, stands at a crossroads in the city’s recovery — one of the points where people staring at destruction must decide whether to stay or go. At the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he and his wife are back in their Mid-City home, in a neighborhood where fewer than 30 percent of the families own the place they live in and which most visitors might see only on their way to Jazzfest.

Absentee landlords have abandoned more than half the nearby buildings in his district. His neighbors across the street, an elderly African American woman with her three grandchildren, are gone, replaced by someone who seems to be a squatter. Newly arrived Hispanic laborers are paying twice the pre-Katrina rents, yet some have no electricity or gas. Some pile their unbagged garbage in the street. The block around the corner is full of FEMA trailers, and across the street is a grocery store untouched since the storm. Inside, rats scurry over a floor slick with rot.

And yet Everson, who works at Xavier University, and his wife, who teaches school, have no plans to leave. They are renovating their flooded first story. They complained to their City Council member about the garbage and the rats, and used Spanish-language flyers to persuade new neighbors to clean up. And most of all, the Eversons are active in their neighborhood organization, which like dozens around the city is working independently to devise a plan for rebuilding. Their group is proposing to form a community redevelopment corporation to buy blighted houses and provide a path to homeownership for those willing to renovate them.

“We want to give people a reason to move to Mid-City,” Everson says, especially people from more wrecked neighborhoods who can’t afford to buy in the areas that stayed dry. “I really think we are the best of the worst, as far as a flooded neighborhood that’s coming back.”

Also quoted: fellow NOLA bloggers Maitri and Karen Gadbois of Northwest Carrollton.

They also put up a slideshow of my photos. They even paid me ($150) for the photos, a totally unexpected windfall and ego-boost. The photo editor said I should shoot for money. How flattering is that?

Psychic Vortex

This ramp-up to the anniversary of Katrina’s landfall is brutal. It’s not bothering me so much personally, but the city as a whole is on edge. There’s some mighty negative energy going around. At least that’s how I’m explaining the recent spiral of bad stuff in my life. In the last month, Xy had a miscarriage, my bike got stolen, our friends across the street got evicted — which resulted in Xy having a big altercation with their landlady — which resulted in us getting a nasty letter from a lawyer. Not to mention the big fire in our neighborhood.

(Incidentally, I’m password-protecting some content that appeared here related to that legal dispute until I can learn more about what the law says. It galls me, but hopefully it’s only temporary. If you need to see it I can give you the password. Or maybe you can guess it!)

Yes, life has sucked lately. I’ll be glad when we get past this time. Meanwhile I’m trying not to get caught up in the negativity by focusing on positive things, like this cute kitten:

Big, Little

And, of course, the Rising Tide conference. See you there!

Cease & Desist

Well, the good news is the postal system around here may be getting better. This letter was posted on Monday and arrived at our house on Tuesday:

Cease & Desist

The bad news is it’s nothing nice. It’s a D&C letter from a lawyer on behalf of the landlord across the street, related to — you guessed it — the events of last Wednesday. To save you undue eyestrain, here’s the text:

Charles G. Merritt
Law Offices
1226 N. Broad
New Orleans, LA 70119
Phone (504) 821-1135
Fax (504) 821-9809

August 19, 2006

Ms. Christy Paxson
Mr. Bart Everson
215 N. Salcedo Street
New Orleans, LA. 70119

Dear Ms. Paxson and Mr. Everson:

I represent Mrs. Maria Santana, owner of the property, 216-218. 216-A and 218-A North Salcedo Street, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Recently Mrs. Santana has been required to evict some of her tenants for non payment of rent and Mrs. Paxson has made insulting remarks to my client, such as, that she was not nice, she was unfair, she was overcharging rent, was not providing tenants with electricity or gas, and was a slum landlord.

Mrs. Santana complained to Ms. Paxson and Mr. Everson and they made additional complaints.

Then Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Paxson painted a sign and placed it on the inside of their building at 215 North Salcedo Street, New Orleans, LA., on, or about Wednesday, August 15, 2006, with additional untrue and accusatory remarks inciting tenants to refuse to rent or pay rent to Ms. Santana all of which contributing harassment and problems for her with the neighbors and with probable tenants and which have caused Mrs. Santana mental pain and suffering, possible loss of income, for which she is entitled to damages and for which she is entitled to an injunction requiring you to remove the signs from your property which are accusatory in nature and preventing you from doing anything or taking an action that would adversely effect the renting of the property of Mrs. Maria Santana located at 216-218-216-A and 218-A North Salcedo Street, New Orleans, LA.

My client hereby makes demand upon you to remove the signs which are unjust and attached to your building at 215 North Salcedo Street, New Orleans, LA., and to refrain from making accusatory or unjust statements against her, that she is an unfair landlord, and to pay her the sum of $1,000.00 in damages for mental pain and suffering from your past actions, and that this cease and desist shall be continued in a court proceedings by order of court in the form of an injunction.

Sincerely,
CHARLES G. MERRITT
CGM:fd ATTORNEY FOR MRS. MARIA SANTANA

Now isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read? So of course we’re wondering how to respond. The simplest thing to do would be to do nothing at all. I sincerely doubt she’s taking this to court, despite that malformed final sentence. We could do nothing and hope it ends here.

However, that’s not very satisfying. I’d like to do something creative, something that indicates we’re not intimidated by such tactics, and most importantly something that might actually result in Ms. Santana being a better landlady.

So once again I turn to my readers. Any suggestions? Any local lawyers out there who find this intriguing enough to get involved?

Boozocracy

I’m proud — no, scratch that — I’m chagrined to announce the debut of Boozocracy, a new online fundraising campaign.

Michael Homan and I are letting people vote on our drinking habits in order to raise money for a library our neighborhood. It’s kind of like the intersection of literary culture and drinking culture and democracy. Our city of New Orleans is well known for its literary and drinking culture. Democracy? Not so much. We’re working on that. But rather than explain the concept here, check out the Boozocracy website, and it will all make sense. Maybe.

DSC05296

You’ll see my face plastered across the Boozocracy website, but the blame for this whole thing really must be laid at the feet of Michael Homan. He came up with the idea. And some blame accrues to Howie as well, for taking the photos.

Anyway, it’s for real. We are putting our livers on the line for a good cause. Please help — with your donations, and by spreading the word. Throw Boozocracy a link, and hopefully we’ll reach our goal soon. Let the chips fall where they may!

Stealing Yr Bike

Today’s musical accompaniment (mp3) provided by Admiral Stereo.

My psychic powers kicked in early this morning, as I was puttering around the house, getting ready to go to work. Some inner voice told me I should check on my bike. I went into the living room and peered out the window onto the front porch.

Gone.

Looking through the window wasn’t quite enough to convince me. I rushed out onto the porch to behold the absence of bike without an intervening glass panel. It still wasn’t there.

I swore loudly and punched and kicked the air a few times.

No, it wasn’t locked up. Usually I lock the bike up, but not last night for some reason. I should have (obviously) but I didn’t. I suppose I was lulled into a false sense of security because our porch is ten feet off the ground. It seems fairly removed from the street.

This sucks because that bike is my primary means of transportation. (So I walked to work this morning, which is nice, but still.) Also, I realize now that bike was my single most expensive possession after my personal computer. It cost something like $450, which is a lot, but worth it since I ride every day.

As Tim pointed out when Xy’s bike was stolen back in February, crimes like this “makes us suspicious of strangers and sometimes even neighbors.” I’d like to imagine my bike was snatched by a random wanderer, but that seems unlikely. I hate the fact that I’ll be looking at all my neighbors and wondering, “Did he steal my bike?”

Sigh.

I’ll buy a new bike, and file a claim on my homeowner’s policy, and report this to the police. For now, I’m taking solace in the fact that even if my bike gets stolen every six months, it’s still cheaper than a car. It also makes me happy to know I have some latent psychic abilities. Too bad those didn’t extend to foreknowledge of the thievery. Then I would have taken proper steps to secure the bicycle, such as locking it up.

Oh, wait, that’s just common sense. Of which I have none.

Fire

Yesterday morning I was taking a coffee break with some co-workers, and looking out our fourth-floor window we noticed a column of black smoke rising in the near distance, just across I-10 in Mid-City. Good God, could that be our house?

I rode my bike over and discovered the fire was quite some distance from our house. It was on the 3800 block of D’Hemecourt, near South Cortez. I could see flames shooting up a couple blocks away. Five or six houses were burning. It was a terrible thing to behold. I took some pictures, and a couple short videos, but when I got back to my office I discovered all the files were corrupted:

Corrupted

It turns out that Karen was also there, and she took some pictures:

Mid City Fire

I returned to the scene after lunch. The last fire truck was just leaving. Residents were milling about in a state of shock. One house burned right to the ground.

Burnt

Firefighters say they’re at the breaking point.

That evening, I gave Walter a ride home on the way to a meeting. Turns out he lives just one or two doors down from the houses that burned. I found that kind of eerie.

Drama on North Salcedo

Ever had the feeling that all the pieces are coming together — but none of them fit? Like maybe some wiseacre at the factory mixed together a bunch of different puzzles as a prank?

Yeah, me too.

I stopped by Michael’s house after work yesterday to talk with Roy Bragg of the San Antonio Express-News.

IMGA0081.JPG

While he was chatting with Michael and Alan and Kalypso and me, I got a call from Xy. She sounded a little panicked. There were police at the house across the street, and she wasn’t sure what was going on, and could I please come home ASAP?

I didn’t rush home, but I didn’t linger either. I finished the interview and took off on my bike. When I got there, I discovered a series of signs posted on our front porch, obviously in Xy’s handwriting.

Landlord is Unfair

The signs said:

Maria Santana, landlord of 216/218 Salcedo is unfair!!

Do not rent 216/218 Salcedo
Landlord overcharges & is mean :(

It’s not nice to overcharge people
& provide them with no electricity
Shame on you landlord :(
216/218 Salcedo
Maria Santana

There were no cops across the street, just a U-Haul truck and a bunch of personal possessions on the sidewalk. I had some idea what was going on, but before I could speak to anyone, Bull rolled up. Bull is a big guy with a big handlebar moustache, one of the plumbers on Coleman’s crew.

A brief digression is in order: Ever since we had our house replumbed a few weeks ago, we’ve had a problem with hot water coming out the cold taps. Now I’ve lived in New Orleans long enough to know you don’t get truly cold water in the summer, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean scalding, steaming hot water. It runs hot for a couple minutes, then chills down to a reasonable temperature. It’s weird brushing your teeth with hot water, and the sensation of the toilet bowl filling up with hot water is especially strange. Coleman has told me that it’s just a matter of heat transfer, that the cold pipes are picking up heat from the hot pipes downstairs, and that it can all be fixed by wrapping them in some insulation.

Bull

So that’s why he sent Bull and the crew over. I took Bull in and showed him the pipes in question. He was right mystified. He said, and I’m not making this up, “Bull don’t understand this.” It seemed the heat transfer theory wasn’t borne out by his actual observations. Heat seemed to be radiating from the water heater much further back up the incoming pipe than one would expect, and that’s how hot water was getting into the cold pipes. “Plumbing ain’t supposed to work like that.”

I left Bull to it and made my way upstairs at last. Xy was in the kitchen, talking on the phone about drama at school, and cradling a tiny orange kitten on her shoulder. What the hell was going on here?

I had to wait until she got off the phone to find out. As I’ve mentioned before, the tenants in the rental property across the street have been living without electricity for weeks. I guess they stopped paying rent, and I can’t blame them. The lack of electricity was entirely the fault of the property owner. Now it seems the owner was evicting the tenants and keeping their deposit to boot. That’s why the cops had been there: to serve the eviction notice.

Another digression: I called numerous city and state offices over the last few days, trying to find out what the legal definition of habitability might be. According to Carla Parker, one of my City Council rep’s legal aides, neither electricity nor hot water are required to meet the legal definition of habitability. As we like to say down here in Louisiana, “Welcome to the Third World.” Only that joke’s less funny to me every day.

Xy was up in arms about the whole situation. We liked those tenants: Damien, Nora and Ovi. They’re good, decent people. As for Maria (the landlady) we’d heard many bad stories about her over the years, from the previous owner of our home, and from our old next door neighbor. Now we were seeing for ourselves what a bitch she could be.



Xy Explains on Vimeo

When Maria saw the signs she wasn’t pleased. Xy confronted her on the street and excoriated her in Spanish and English.



Xy Confronts Maria on Vimeo

Maria took a picture of the signs, I suppose to make us think she might sue for libel or slander or defamation or somesuch, but I don’t think she’d have a case. (Anybody have a contrary opinion?) Then she drove away in her nice shiny Lexus.

I commiserated with Damien, who was now trying to unload some of his possessions in an impromptu yard sale. Then I noticed new tenants already moving in. Maria must have lined them up a while ago. To welcome them to the neighborhood I helped carry some of the bigger pieces upstairs. It’s only furnishings at this point: They aren’t actually moving in until the electricity is on. Good strategy.

Then Walter showed up.

Walter

Walter is an odds-job who lives in the neighborhood. He’d approached Xy a few days ago about cutting down the dead tree next to our house, but she deferred the price negotiations to me. This was my first encounter with Walter. He makes quite an impression. For one thing, he’s quite striking, visually, being about 6′ 4″ or so and nothing but bones and muscle. For another thing, he’s got a rural Louisiana accent that is almost impenetrable to my Midwestern ears. And then there’s his whole approach to life, which is refreshingly different. “Pay me whatever you think is fair. If you don’t have any money that’s OK too. We’ve just got to trust in the Lord.”

And that brings us to Milo, the orange kitten. Walter found Milo a short time ago and gave him to Damien. Now that Damien was moving, somehow Milo seems to have gotten transferred to us. Not that we mind. He’s excruciatingly cute.

Milo

(Did you know that most calico cats are female and most orange cats are male? I didn’t.)

Just to make everything even more weird, Walter then hurt himself and asked Xy for some alcohol. She brought him a shot of whiskey. No, no, he wanted rubbing alcohol. But he graciously accepted the whiskey.

Somewhere during all the drama the plumbers left. We still have hot water coming out the cold tap. Oh well. It’s hard to be mad about anything when you have a cute kitten that needs lots of TLC.

And the signs? They’re staying up for now, at least until it rains or we get sued. I think Maria may have a hard time renting the other three units in her fourplex.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I also posted Damien’s side of the story.

Open House

Last night Xy’s school had an open house. Twenty parents came by to talk with Xy. Most were from her own class of 25, some from the other two classes in the 6th grade. That’s a lot. In fact, Xy said she hasn’t seen so many parents at an open house since she taught at a Catholic school!

We speculated on why this might be the case. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Algiers Charter Schools are starting so early. I remember Brian Riedlinger was on TV saying the early start showed they were serious about education. To be honest, I scoffed at the time. But now I wonder.

In the past, there’s been a strong tradition in New Orleans of not sending your kids to school until after Labor Day. That meant that some kids missed the first week or so of school, and got off to a bad start. But what with Xy’s school starting so early, perhaps they only got parents who were really on the ball.

I heard that some students who didn’t show up for the first week were expelled by the principal. They’ve got a waiting list of students, so it only makes sense that if you don’t show up, you’ll lose your place. Those families may have trouble finding any place for their students in the new hodgepodge of schools down here, since the state-run district is lacking teachers and three Treme schools just lost their charter.

I’d like to believe that we’re seeing the dawn of a new age of parental responsibility and involvement in New Orleans. But that may be wishful thinking.

Check’s in the Mail

So our mortgage company is holding the insurance money for renovating our house. They cut a check months ago when our contractor first submitted a bid, for one-third of the estimated total.

A couple months ago they sent an inspector along to confirm that work has been underway. They cut another check for the next third on June 12th, and mailed it on June 13th.

Now it’s mid-August. I called the mortgage company yesterday morning to say the check hadn’t arrived. They said they’d put a stop on the check and mail a new one.

Sure enough, when I got home, there it was, sitting in my mailbox: The long lost check. I called the bank immediately. “Can you stop the stop?” Nope, too late. So I’m sitting here looking at a check for $18K that’s not worth anything.

It’s kind of funny actually. So I’m going to stop swearing and have a good laugh about it.