Vacation in the Head

Starting today, I’m on vacation. But I’m not going anywhere. Or perhaps I should say that any trips I take will be inside my own head. The point is I won’t be going to the office for a couple weeks or so. I haven’t had a vacation since campus reopened in January, and frankly I could use one. I need to get my head together. As I remarked to Michael at last night’s planning meeting, my whole life seems to revolve around establishing and breaking routines. I crave the structure of a routine but I also crave the freedom of breaking out when it gets stale. And I’m in a bit of a rut now. So I am taking a long trip to nowhere, going on an extended tour of my own personal headspace. If you don’t hear from me after two weeks, send out a search party.


I recently learned that the library here at the University has a stockpile of a few hundred educational filmstrips from the 50s and 60s. They’re getting rid of them, selling them to some company that extracts the silver.

I guess that’s better than just throwing them away. I guess they don’t have much real value. Over at Etsy someone is selling packs of eight for $2.50.

But I had to grab a few as souvenirs. These things are interesting to me.

Four Titles

Titles: “Two Decades of Cold War,” “Black Treasures,” “Look at Your Future,” “The Population Explosion,” “The Next Twenty Years.”

New Cities in Space

More pix here.


I spent a good part of the last three days at a conference entitled Humanity and the Earth: The Legacy of Élisée Reclus (1830-1905). It was put together by John Clark at Loyola University. Topics included “Classical Anarchism in the Age of Reclus,” “Kropotkin and Reclus’ Friendship and the Cross-fertilization of Ideas,” “The Future of Green Anarchy,” “Abstracting Anarchism: Élisée Reclus, Frentisek Kupka and the Project of Modernist Art,” “Élisée Meets the Big Easy” and others. I got to meet Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible, which we used as a text in the study group John organized a couple years ago. I also met Aragorn! (the exclamation mark appears to be a part of his name) who helps edit and produce the magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. I also saw some old friends and acquaintances, and Saturday night there was a “Reclusian banquet” at John’s house featuring Paul Gailunas and Ukelele Against the Machine. All in all it was a stimulating and provocative and inspiring event, and a welcome respite from the Katrina recovery issues that dominate my daily life.


According to my friend Kelly, I should be planning for my retirement now. My dad retired when he was 56. The trend is to work longer, but I feel like bucking that trend. I mean, I enjoy my job, but I don’t think I’d want to be doing it when I’m 70. I’ve always enjoyed working on my own projects, even when they don’t generate income. So I’d like to retire around the same age as my father. Gulp, that’s in 16 short years from now. Anyway, according to Ben Stein, the first step in planning for retirement is to set a date, so I’m choosing October 22nd, 2022. I was going to say October 28th, which is exactly 16 years from today, but the 22nd makes for a more interesting date.

I realize this date might be wildly unrealistic, especially if Xy and I had a child, but I can always make adjustments later.

Wow, that first step was easy. But that next step — “Calculate how much money you need to accumulate by the time you want to retire” — that makes my brain hurt. Even with this retirement calculator.

I think I need a vacation.

Locked Up

I am happy to announce that our house is finally secure for the first time in many months. Our four downstairs doors had no locks. In fact one of the doors fell off its hinges a couple months ago. The only thing keeping trespassers out has been luck. But I got new knobs and deadbolts, and our contractor finally got them installed.

Unfortunately that has revealed a new problem.


See, Mike sent me to pick out the hardware on my own. I should have known this was trouble.

Murder Hits Home

Taisha is a young girl who lives across the street from us. She and her mother moved in a few weeks ago. Before that she used to attend the school where Xy teaches in Algiers, though they didn’t know each other there.

Girlz of N. Salcedo

Last Friday Taisha’s older brother was gunned down in Central City.

Double Murder

This incident merited four sentences in the next day’s paper. It always gets me to see murders reported so briefly. There’s something deeply wrong with our society, that such violence has become trivial.

Man on the Street

This morning I noticed an old white guy standing across the street. He wasn’t doing anything, just standing there looking at the house across the street from ours. I remembered seeing him there yesterday morning too.

When I carried my bike down to the street, I said hi and we talked for a while. He said he was the owner of the house across the street. I had thought John Payne was the owner, since he’s the one I’ve seen tending to the place over years. Now I learned that John managed the property for this guy. He was waiting for him now, as they worked to renovate the house.

“And if he doesn’t show up in a few minutes, he’s gonna get my foot up his ass,” the old man joked.

He also told me about how he used to live in the neighborhood, and all the crazy people who used to live on the block, and how it “used to be a nice neighborhood.” He told me about growing up in the Irish Channel. He said I couldn’t have entered that neighborhood back then, because there was a gang of kids that routinely beat up any strangers. And he was one of the gang.

I told him my wife had planted the garden in front of his property. He said thanks, and “do I owe you anything?”

We talked a little more. He’s 89 years old and living in Metairie. His name is Roy Bodenheimer.

“You may have heard of my son,” he said. “He’s in jail.”

“What? Oh, you mean the judge? Ronald Bodenheimer is your son?”

“That’s him. He helped Copeland and Marcotte and they put him away for a few years. He told me, ‘Daddy, I done wrong.’ He’s served his time, and he’s almost out now.”

We said goodbye and I rode off to work. Jefferson yesterday, Bodenheimer today. What corrupt local political figure will I meet tomorrow?

Dollar Bill Sighting

I went to grab some lunch at Minnie’s and was surpised to see lights and a camera crew and some well-dressed people milling about. Next thing I know Congressman William Jefferson is shaking my hand.

He’s been in the news a lot lately, and not for anything nice. So as he shook my hand, I didn’t think about how he’s been in office for 16 years. I didn’t think about how he was our first African-American congressman since Reconstruction. I didn’t think of his reputation as a serious lawmaker. All I could think was, “the FBI found $90K in his freezer.”

It’s sad, really.

But it was great to see Minnie’s in the spotlight, however briefly. The lady behind the counter (Minnie herself?) joked that I got it all started for them when I posted about their opening on the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization’s website.

Curse of the Middle Finger

Xy had to drive herself to the emergency room yesterday morning. She sliced her finger open with a scissors, and it just wouldn’t stop bleeding. She bled all over the school, and finally they sent her to the hospital. Fortunately she didn’t need stitches. They just used that Dermabond stuff.

Of course it took all day. I told her if she needed a day off, she didn’t have to cut herself.

Strangely enough, it’s the middle finger on her left hand. I sliced the same finger on my hand a couple weeks ago, at just about the same angle and location. But Xy’s cut was a little deeper.

Of course I teased her about how she won’t be able to communicate with her students now.

Busy Busy Busy

A brief recap of the past week:

Monday night I attended our weekly grassroots neighborhood planning meeting.

Tuesday night I attended the monthly board meeting for a nonprofit group I’ve been working with.

Wednesday night I attended a meeting to revise bylaws of our neighborhood organization.

Thursday night I thought I’d catch a break, but I ended up giving a tour of the neighborhood to some folks who are working on a documentary for Dutch TV, about the 2008 US presidential election.

Friday afternoon I gave them the Misery Tour of Lakeview, Gentilly and the Lower Ninth Ward. Then I headed over to Algiers for a party at my friend and co-worker Mark’s house. He wrote a successful million-dollar grant for the United Way, which is surely something to celebrate.

Saturday Xy woke up with a hangover that triggered a killer migraine. I spent much of the day playing nursemaid. It was so bad that for a while we thought we would have to cancel our screening of ROX #94 which we’d planned for that evening. That would have been ironic since the subject of ROX #94 is “Hangover Cures.” Thankfully Xy rallied and the screening took place as planned.

That brings us to today, Sunday. I got up early to beat the crowd at the laundromat. This afternoon I attended the monthly meeting for another nonprofit.

So this is what I mean when I say I’m “keeping busy.”

Tulane Ave.

I took a walk down Tulane Avenue last week. I had my camera with me, and I took some pictures.

4033 Tulane

Dental Care

Inside La Hacienda

Tulane Avenue is a major thoroughfare which runs through my neighborhood, Mid-City, and continues all the way into the Central Business District. These pictures were taken in the blocks near Carrollton Avenue, which is where the landmark Mid-City Lanes (Home of Rock ‘n’ Bowl) is located. Tulane Avenue was pretty rundown pre-Katrina. Some of the businesses there may have been on the sleazy side, and some may have been abandoned and blighted, but there were also dentists and the like.

It’s truly shocking to see so many commercial properties that appear to be untouched since the flood, over a year ago. Unfortunately, scenes like this are repeated all over New Orleans today, but for some reason I found this particular area really interesting.

More pix of Tulane Avenue.

Here & Gone

I saw a house at 3215 Bienville just the other day. I noticed it because the doors were wide open and the moldering contents were lying in plain sight from the street. It was one of those houses that has sat untouched since the flood.



Now it’s gone. I noticed its absence this morning as I rode past on my bicycle, and it was a bit of a shock. And I wonder: How did this happen? I know it doesn’t take long to tear a small house down, but I’m wondering about the bureaucratic process. I live in a designated historic district; all demolitions have to go through a public review process. I get all the notices electronically and scan them to see if there’s anything in my neighborhood.

I’m not trying to suggest the owner did anything wrong here. Far from it. I logged onto VelocityHall and ascertained that a demolition permit was indeed obtained in early August. I’m just wondering why I didn’t see this coming.

Beating Our Children

Although I’m proud of Xy for being a good teacher in the public schools, it’s also a source of frustration for both of us. She so often comes home worn out, angry and overwhelmed. Every school day is an exhausting drama. Not only that, but most of her evenings and weekends are full of homework, and she has to pay for many supplies out of her own pocket. But I digress.

We’ve got a teacher shortage in New Orleans, and as a result the two other teachers at Xy’s grade level are older folks who’ve come out of retirement. Good for them, in theory. But in point of fact these teachers are not really able to cope with the reality of today’s school. One is at least trying, but the other doesn’t seem to care. In fact, it’s worse than that. He’s abusive to the children and harasses his fellow workers.

Most recently this teacher punished his students by handing out a bunch of failing grades, on a seemingly arbitrary basis.

At least one child was beaten as a result. Xy discovered this yesterday when she noticed the child had a sore arm. When she rolled up her sleeve Xy saw a huge welt. As it turned out she had severe bruises all over her body. She confessed that her father had beaten her severely when he discovered she’d gotten an F.

Xy reported this to the school’s social workers, and they had her call Child Protective Services. Xy had a lot of trepidation and misgivings about that. She didn’t want to make things worse for this child. But she really had no choice.

CPS was supposed to visit the child’s home last night and photograph her injuries. I wonder how that went.

What a terrible situation. Of course the parent bears the full responsibility for his actions. But Xy is also angry at the teacher who handed out failing grades without rhyme or reason, simply to punish the children, whom he can’t seem to manage except through fear and intimidation. Later in the day, when Xy came back down to the office on an unrelated matter, she overheard a visiting parent exclaim that her child would be receiving a beating for bring home an F from the same teacher.

Xy’s also angry at the school administration, because they haven’t taken the appropriate steps to reign in this rogue teacher. But she figures that child would have received a beating on another pretext eventually.

A teacher can’t solve everything, but it weighs heavily on Xy nonetheless.

It’s easy to despise the abusive parent and put ourselves above him. But that’s a dangerous moral trap. If we don’t provide a decent education for all our children, we’re effectively beating them down. And I’m sorry to say that’s still the case in New Orleans today, despite the big rhetoric about transforming our schools.

Yeah, I said it. Our current school system is a form of child abuse.

Update: The events described above took place on Thursday. On Monday, Xy learned that CPS still hadn’t visited the child’s house. In fact, CPS has no record of Xy’s call on Thursday. Supposedly they are rescheduling. Meanwhile the child’s bruises have steadily faded.

Flood Marker

I took this picture this morning at Jeff Davis and Conti.

Waterline Marker

I think anyone in New Orleans would recognize what this marker means: that’s how high the water came during last year’s flood. As a point of reference, the waterline was about the level of my neck, and I’m tall.

What I wonder about is: Who put this here, and is it part of a larger project? Are there more markers like this around the city?