Cold Water

While many of my neighbors are trying to get hot water in their houses, we’ve been longing for cold water.

See, we got our gas turned back on and a new water heater installed way back in November. All was well until we had most of the house re-plumbed in late July. Actually Coleman did a bang-up job, but there was one little problem: We’ve had hot water coming out the cold tap ever since.

I’m not talking about lukewarm water either. Everyone knows “cold” water isn’t really very cold in New Orleans in the summertime. But this was scalding hot, enough to brew tea. I put a thermometer in just to test; it maxed out at 110ºF. This was from the cold tap, mind you.

At first Coleman thought it was heat transfer of some sort, like a cold water pipe picking up heat from a hot pipe. So he insulated the pipes, but that didn’t solve the problem. Somehow we fell off his radar for a while after that, and we spent most of August and September brushing our teeth with hot water. Let me tell you, it’s a strange sensation to sit down on a toilet bowl full of hot water.

Coleman’s most recent theory was that the hot water heater wasn’t properly vented. But when he arrived at our house yesterday to look into the matter, he discovered the real problem. The rough-in valves he’d installed for our shower were wide open. This allowed backfeed and mixing of hot and cold water.


So he just closed the valves (yes, there are two — it’s going to be a nice shower) and now our cold water is cold again. And our hot water is noticeably hotter too.

Speaking of problems controlling the flow of water, if you really want to get your dander up, take a look at local blogger Matt McBride’s new post on Problems at the Floodgates. Seeing is believing.

Referenda Agenda

Tomorrow we vote on thirteen amendments to the Louisiana constitution. In a futile attempt to make sense of the issues on the table, I’ve compiled a grid comparing the recommendations of every organization I could find, with links to sources for further reading. I’m probably voting for amendments 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 12 and 13. And the rest? I just don’t know yet.

Herb & Herb

When Herb and Jenny came to visit last weekend, they were surprised to find Herb’s picture hanging in our hallway. Jenny took this picture, which demonstrates that Herb was simply beside himself:

Herb & 1995 photo

What made it even funnier was that I don’t even know Herb very well. The picture was taken by Rachel Whang in Bloomington, Indiana, back in 1995 or so. It was part of a series Rachel took for her MFA show. We inherited the photos when she moved to Baltimore, and they’ve been on display wherever we’ve lived in New Orleans.

Speaking of Baltimore and New Orleans, a recent article in Rolling Stone quotes David Simon as saying “New Orleans is Baltimore but it can carry a tune.” (Thanks for the link, Ashley.)

Daisy’s Story

My friend Daisy told me the following Katrina story. It’s a simple tale, but kind of chilling. I wanted to record it before I forget.

Daisy and her husband stayed through Katrina, and their Garden District apartment was relatively unscathed. They lost power, of course, and they heard about the looting at Wal-Mart but they weren’t too concerned.

Then Daisy went for a drive on some errand, and she saw a dead body. I think the man may have jumped or fallen from an overpass. The police were on the scene. It was disturbing, but Daisy still didn’t understand the chaos into which the city was descending.

A short time later, as she returned from her errand, she passed by the same spot. The body was still there. The police were gone.

An hour later, she and her husband evacuated the city.

All Saints Day

Today is the day when the Saints return to the Superdome. I think everybody who lives in New Orleans is pretty happy about that, even football-skeptical folks like myself. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement, since so many people seem to pin so much on this team. But even as we celebrate, we’ll keep things in perspective.

To those outside the city, even if you’re not a football fan, I recommend tuning in to Monday Night Football and checking it out. Not for the game so much as the spectacle and commentary surrounding it.

More reasons to celebrate: It’s Herb Reith’s birthday today. He and Jenny came and visited us over the weekend. They are some mellow, laidback people, character traits which I have come to appreciate more and more. Also, thirteen years ago today Xy and were manacled together in unholy matrimony.

My Block

If you walk around my block you will see…

  • Flooded homes. Some have been completely renovated, some are currently being renovated, some have been gutted and stand vacant, some appear not to have been touched since the flood. I’d say fewer than half are occupied.
  • Cajun V&T Grocery. You know the one. It hasn’t been touched since the flood — a prime example of a nuisance commercial property.
  • Adam’s Grocery. They have renovated and re-opened. You can get a hot meal or a cold drink. They even have a few produce items available, which I don’t recall from pre-Katrina days.
  • Vacant lots. Historic buildings used to be there, but they were torn down in a hurry before enyone could object.
  • FEMA trailers. There are trailers in front of flooded homes, and across Bienville is a big park with about 70 trailers. Those sat unoccupied for three months but now they seem to be full up.
  • Garbage piling up. There’s always more.
  • Nicely tended gardens.
  • Neighbors! There are more every day. We first got neighbors back in January, and for a while it was only Latinos. Now there are more African-Americans. Xy and I still seem to be the only white folks. We’re so happy to see people that we almost always go up and talk to them.

    Gwen & Xy

    For example, Gwen is one of the few homeowners who’ve returned. Most of our neighbors our renters, and for the most part they aren’t able to return to the same rental property they used to live in before the storm. As a result, they feel like new neighbors, and Gwen feels like an old neighbor, even though we didn’t really know her before. Gwen is living in a trailer on front of her home where she used to live with her brother Dan, who died shortly after the storm. Dan used to do odd jobs around the neighborhood.

  • Warren Easton High School. Open for business! Stop by at the right time and you might even hear the band practicing, though they haven’t come marching down the street yet.

Xy and I try to take a walk around the block every evening. It’s like a microcosm of the city as a whole.


Both elevators are out of commission for the last few days, so I’ve been using the emergency stairwell to get to and from my office on the 5th floor.

Grim Stairwell

The air is mighty stale in there. Going down these stairs reminds me of a very grim story, “Descending,” by Thomas Disch.

Except… wait, that was about an escalator. Oh well.


The most interesting thing Xy and I did over the weekend was to attend the premiere bout of the Big Easy Rollergirls at Mardi Gras World. Good thing we bought tickets in advance: It was sold out.

Xy pretty much demanded that we go, and given that she’s generally too preoccupied with teaching to do anything fun, I certainly didn’t argue. I went for the spectacle but was pleasantly surprised to discover the game itself was quite compelling. I can’t think when I’ve so enjoyed a sporting event. I didn’t take a camera, but Michael did, and he’s posted pix. Schroeder did a radio interview with some of the Rollergirls, and he posted pix too.

The hard part is picking a favorite player, because there were a lot of slick moves out there. I think Cherry Pi and Marquee de Squad and Illegally Blonde were the best skaters. I liked how all the players (and even the refs) customized their uniforms, but no one looked better on the track than #C8H18, Vandal O’Riley. That counts for plenty in my book.

Final score: Aints 123, Hor-Nots 128.

Afterward there was more spectacle outside the venue, as we watched a freight train grind to a halt because some bozo parked on the tracks. Then we made our way to the Kingpin to celebrate Loki’s 40th.

Signs of Life

I know I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but I thought I’d plug it again because my copy just arrived in the mail. Now that I’ve actually seen the book I can vouch for its quality.

I’m talking about Signs of Life. It’s a book of photos taken in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast after Katrina. The photos depict the hand-painted signs which sprang up all over the area in the wake of the disaster.

My photo has the distinction of being the only sign which was painted before the storm.

Dare You Katrina

It’s not a big book, but it’s powerful. I’m surprised that this series of images carries such an emotional impact without showing a single person. The signs tell the story of Katrina in a way that is fresh and very human, with many surprises and details that made me think, and laugh, and cry.

Profits from the sale of the book go to Common Ground Relief and Hands On Network, two organizations that continue to do good work here in the devastated region. I highly recommend buying your own copy today.


Xy and I are continuing our alphacinematic odyssey, at a much reduced pace. I don’t have as many evenings to watch movies as I once did. Nevertheless, it remains a welcome distraction, and we’ve finally made it through the letter R. It took us five weeks to watch eleven movies. They were mostly pretty good, but nothing really blew me away like Raising Arizona or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Real Life. If you’ve never seen Real Life, Albert Brooks’ 1979 directorial debut, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s the best.

I really enjoyed these:

  • Ray (2004) — Good story, great soundtrack. Especially fun to spot all the New Orleans locations.
  • The Right Stuff (1983) — Entertaining. The humor keep this from descending into grotesque nationalistic chest-thumping.
  • Room at the Top (1959) — A good old-fashioned melodrama, laden with class tension. But the version of the DVD that I got was one of the worst film transfers I’ve seen.
  • Red Beard (1965) — Akira Kurosawa does a film about dedicated doctors. Masterful, but too long and melodramatic to be a masterpiece.

These were decent:

  • Revolution OS (2002) — A doucumentary about open source/free software. If you can get past the geekery, there are some revolutionary ideas here.
  • Rear Window (1954) — I saw this Hitchcock film in the theater when it was re-released — early 80s, I guess. I think I was in high school at the time. I didn’t remember too many details except that I thought it was good. Upon watching it again I found it to be slow-paced and a bit of a yawn. It’s classic stuff, but I wasn’t really feeling it.
  • Ruthless People (1986) — Delightfully silly.
  • The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) — More silliness, but entertaining.
  • Richard III (1955) — Highbrow historical stuff.
  • Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1955) — His impression of a deer in the woods is priceless.

There was only one R movie that I didn’t care for:

  • Ran (1985) — This is the first Akira Kurosawa flick that didn’t blow me away. In fact, I found it kind of tedious. (It didn’t help that I got the lousy Fox Lorber version of the DVD.)

Call from Paul

The owner of the grocery store in question called me yesterday evening. He got my letter. I’ll call him Paul, because that’s his name. He told me his story, and as predicted, it was a sad one.

Paul lost his job after the storm, and then he got real sick, and he now has no income, and his car isn’t in good enough shape to make it to New Orleans, so he hasn’t even seen the grocery since the flood, and he was shocked — shocked — to learn of its condition.

I asked, “So where are you living these days?”

The answer: Metairie.

Eight Miles

Hmmm… That would be approximately eight miles away. And it’s been a year. Hmmm…

I’ll confess I’m a tad skeptical, but who knows? It’s been a very rough year for all of us. He said that he was very concerned and that he will get the place cleaned up as soon as possible.

I offered to give him a ride to survey the property. I also repeated the offer (from the letter I sent) to organize a crew of volunteers if he needed it. He didn’t take me up on either offer.

The next thing to worry about is whether he actually makes good on his promise, and if so that the cleanup could actually make things worse. If they pile that gunk out on the curb it will be truly horrific. Frankly, the place is in such sad shape I wonder if wholesale demolition isn’t a better option.

Beer with the Earthling

Michael and I met Dave Coustan (a.k.a. the Earthling) at Finn McCool’s yesterday after work, to talk about Mid-City’s desperate thirst for WiFi.

Earthling Meets Michael

Earthlink is working to bring free WiFi to New Orleans. They’re naturally inclined to focus on the most populous areas first, that is the unflooded areas. We’ve been trying to make the argument that the need is greater in a devastated area like Mid-City, which was flooded but is coming back fast. There’s lots of people living and working in Mid-City, and we need WiFi. Traditional landline systems (DSL, cable) are taking too long to rebuild. BellSouth told Michael he’d have to wait two or three years for a phone!

So we were bending Dave’s ear about that, just trying to keep the issue alive in the corporate mind of Earthlink.

Big thanks to Alan for helping us hook up.

ABC 26 News

I was on the local news last night — top of the ten o’clock hour.

Bart Everson Mid-City Resident

They pegged it to Nagin’s 100+3 day press conference, citing his quip about commercial blight, and then segueing to our rodent-infested grocery.

They shot the interview with me yesterday afternoon. The camera operator (who bravely ventured into the grocery) turns out to be a blog-reader. He was even at Rising Tide. Unfortunately I didn’t get his name. The reporter was Cyndi Nguyen. After talking to me they interviewed Ryan and Zion, Lydia’s sons who live next door to the grocery.

That night they came back, and Cyndi did a live stand-up in front of the grocery. She even brandished a printout from this blog.

Cyndi Live

I was very happy with the way they handled the story. Twelve-year-old Zion giving a tour, showing where the rats come through, really brought it home.


I don’t have any way to record TV at home, but I took some pictures of the screen. You can watch the video on the WGNO website, but unfortunately you’ll need the RealOne Player (free) and I can’t figure how to actually save the file. I hate that file format. Why would a TV station want to make it difficult for people to share their content? They’ve got their brand plastered on the screen. They would only stand to benefit if it was easier to share.

I’ve also been contacted by some city officials who read my op-ed piece. There are some hopeful developments, but nothing substantive yet.

ABC Tonite, NBC Tomorrow?

I think I’ll be on the local news tonight (ABC 26 at 9 and 10) with some other Mid-City residents, talking about that corner grocery. Yeah, you know the one.

It looks like I will also be on NBC Nightly News (national) but I’m not sure when. The producer, a guy named Steve Majors who moved here in June, told me that they sometimes hold a story for weeks or months. In any event, NBC is the one station that hasn’t resurrected its digital broadcast signal since Katrina, and as a consequence our reception is terrible. So if you see it, let me know.

It Got Worse

A few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, I wrote a short essay titled “I Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse.”

Sadly, it seems it has gotten worse. A lot worse. We’re now embroiled in a war that has nothing to do with those attacks, yet those attacks are used to justify this war.

In the dark days after the planes hit the buildings, two things were immediately clear to me, probable to the point of certainty: 1) that the point of the terrorist attacks could only be to provoke war between Islam and the West, and 2) that we would fall for it.

Man, it really sucks to be right sometimes.

September 11th used to be the Day Everything Changed. In New Orleans it no longer feels that way. We’ve got a new day on the calendar for that, sadly enough.

Meanwhile, in the United States, September 11th seems to have turned into National Hate-Mongering Day. I just turned on the radio and got an earful:

They say we can’t stop another attack? I can stop it. Let me unroll the barbed wire. And the very first people going in there are the ACLU lawyers.

I’m not making this up. This wasn’t a caller — this was the host. He wasn’t joking, either. He literally wants concentration camps here in America, with the ACLU as prisoners, in the name of stopping terrorism.

You and I might dismiss such talk as the ranting of an idiot. But you and I don’t have nationally syndicated talk shows.

To the families of the victims, I want to say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry we as a nation have perverted the memory of your loss to serve such hateful political ends.


I write here without editorial filter. Sometimes I wish I had one. So it was a pleasure to write an op-ed piece for the Times-Picayune, which appeared in this morning’s paper. It was nice to have a second set of eyes checking my work. Here’s what I wrote, followed by some notes.
Continue reading “Edited”