Buggin’ Out

New Orleans remains within Gustav’s cone of anxiety. The prognosticators seem to think he’ll make landfall late Monday somewhat west of here, but hurricanes have a way of turning unexpectedly for good or ill. This one’s gonna be too close for comfort.

Gustav

When Ivan threatened back in 2004, only the foolish and the poor remained. We were foolish, but we got lucky. I told myself if we’d had a child we’d have evacuated.

So: We’re outta here. Packing up the girl, some cats, some papers, and heading to Tuscaloosa. Hopefully by leaving before dawn we’ll avoid traffic congestion. Mayor Nagin has declared a mandatory evacuation and tried to strike some fear into people’s hearts last night, but we were thinking to leave anyway.

Yesterday we saw neighbors with suitcases, waiting to be picked up on Canal Street. “Where you headed?” Xy asked. “Wherever the bus takes us.” So finally the city is helping those who can’t evacuate on their own. If that had only been done three years ago.

I’ll continue to post daily, but for more immediate updates follow me on Twitter.

The only other time we evacuated was three years ago, and we all know how that turned out. The resonance with that other pre-dawn flight is eerie. This evacuation may prove, in retrospect, to be unnecessary. I sincerely hope so.

Heavy Rotation

What I’ve been listening to the most over the last week:

  1. Echo & the Bunnymen
  2. Alpha Blondy
  3. Lustmord
  4. Death in June
  5. Wappenbund
  6. Hexentanz
  7. Tzolk’in
  8. Benga
  9. Dead Can Dance
  10. Sol Invictus
  11. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

(Four-way tie for last.)

Speaking of “heavy rotation,” Gustav’s a hurricane again, grinding his way to Cuba. Landfall is predicted to be around midnight Monday. New Orleans is still in the cone of anxiety.

Today I am taking a photo inventory of the house to document our possessions and the renovations we have made, for insurance purposes.

Our current plan is to bug out tomorrow morning before dawn and go bunk down with Jenny & Herb in Tuscaloosa for a couple nights. Unless, of course, there’s a radical revision in Gustav’s track after he passes over Cuba and gets in the Gulf.

I’m happy to report that yesterday’s adventure in fatherhood went very smoothly. However, last night we had our first-ever case of extended inconsolable howling. We still don’t know what was wrong, but this morning she’s back to her normal extraordinarily cheerful self.

My Little Girl’s Got a Full-Time Daddy Now

Perhaps the reason I think our daughter has been so easy to deal with so far might be because I haven’t had to deal with her all that much, really. I mean, I went back to work three months ago, leaving the work of child-rearing mainly on Xy’s shoulders. Then, when Xy went back to work we started paying for childcare.

But today we’re putting this to the test. I was planning on taking a half-day to bring the girl to her regular doctor visit. However, I then learned that our childcare facility is closed today (not because of Gustav, but because of Labor Day) so I’m taking a full day off work. As it turns out, our doctor appointment is canceled (yes, Gustav) and ironically the University will be closing early today.

Anyway, I’ve realized this is probably the longest stretch of solo parental responsibility I’ve had since she was born.

I’m also nursing a sore throat and keeping an eye on Gustav.

Today is, of course, the three-year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. I don’t feel quite up to attending any of the local commemorative events, but I can think of no better tribute to those who lost their lives than caring for a young child. I don’t know. It makes perfect sense to me.

Oh, and hey, the last five or so posts, including this one, take their names from pop song titles. So if you’re looking for a silly distraction from the gravity of the day, see if you can identify the artists. Bonus points if you can find the “subtext” — the sorta hidden lyrical subtitles.

Double Trouble

Gustav’s timing is especially crazy-making for us here on the Gulf Coast. Just about everyone around here can remember exactly what they were doing three years ago today. We were on the road, headed north, our first and only evacuation so far.

Yes, it’s been three years, and we’re still trying to cut through the haze of mythology that’s enveloped those events.

But back to the present. It’s still too early for us to make the call. If we bug out, it will probably be in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Maybe Monday morning. Xy’s aunt in Shreveport has offered us lodging. I’ve only met her once, but she seems pretty cool. She started an AIDS hospice and some kind of teen drug court up there.

I’ve been planning our route.

The track for Gustav has not continued to trend eastward. The most recent estimates shift back west — not particularly what I wanted to see. I don’t like the latest track, not one bit. Hurricanes have a wet side and a dry side, and if Gustave goes west, we’ll be on the wet side. It’s still too early to call, but it’s also kind of hard to concentrate on anything else.

And then there’s this other system forming out there in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Hanna. Ray pointed out this rather alarming wind probability map:

Double Trouble

Distant Early Warning

Gustav is set to enter the Gulf this weekend. He’s only a tropical storm right now, but he should be a hurricane by then.

In Gustav's Cone

I only became aware of Gustav yesterday, when Karen asked, “When do we start freaking out?” My reply: “Thursday morning.” It’s only Wednesday now, so I’m not worried yet. But I am keeping a close eye on the NHC website.

Yeah, yeah, the track looks like it’s pointed right at New Orleans. But that estimate is five days out, very unreliable. Furthermore, I believe the center of the track is just the area of greatest probability. Gustav could end up anywhere within that cone, which covers half the Gulf. This most recent estimate veers eastward, which is good for us — not so good for those to the east, obviously.

I’ve even learned some misguided Democrats are rooting for Gustav to make a direct hit on New Orleans next week because it will make the Republican National Convention look bad. Fortunately I don’t believe any amount of wishful thinking will influence the weather. Otherwise I’d feel guilty about wishing Gustav off to the east.

Not to worry. Not yet. But this is a good time to check plans and supplies, to make sure everything is prepared.

Update: Come to think of it, I believe the track is constructed from multiple different predictive models, so the center of the track may actually be the area of least probability. My man Bob Breck seems to think so: “I want New Orleans to be the bulls eye at 5 days because it won’t come here…it will be on either side of the center line track by a large distance.” He may be a global warming denier, but he’s still a damn good weatherman.

Later that evening: The University just announced campus will be closed from Friday afternoon until the following Thursday. Kudos to the administration for playing it smart. This makes it easier for students, faculty and staff to evacuate if necessary.

Sympathy for the Devil

Ángel Caído en El Retiro

One day when I was very young I brought home from Sunday School a page from some sort of activity booklet. I believe it depicted Jesus being tempted by Satan. I cut out the image of Satan and pinned it to the wall of my bedroom. I found a blue foil star somewhere and pinned it in his hand. Somehow that seemed right. I’m sure at that tender age I didn’t know that Lucifer means Light-Bringer in Latin. I doubt I was aware that in the Book of Isaiah he was called Day Star, or Morning Star, son of Dawn.

Mom was a little upset by the display. “I won’t have devil worship in this house,” she said. I explained that I wasn’t worshiping him, I just thought he looked cool, with the horns and bat-wings and all. Besides, I pointed to the star as evidence that he’d turned good.

But I think the real reason Satan interested me was as a symbol or icon of transgression. From those very early days to this, I’ve been fascinated by transgressive behavior, rebels and outcasts, deviants and misfits, anyone that goes against the dominant narrative, anything that seems offensive to mainstream sensibilities.

I am not speaking of an obsession, just a mild fascination, an enduring interest. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s easy to look around and see there are plenty of people who share this interest. But I also recognize that it’s a minority position.

I still find Satanic imagery mildly compelling. But his primary appeal, to me, exists only within the Christian paradigm. As that has become less dominant in my mind, the power of such imagery seems to diminish somewhat, but my general interest in transgression remains. Curiously and ironically enough, I imagine Jesus as a friend to transgressors of all types.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, and wondering as always about that ultimate question: Why? There are so many ways of being. Why am I more this way than another? Why am I who I am and not someone else? For many years I have sought environmental explanations. More and more I attribute my quirks to nature, not nurture. I am who I am because I was born this way.

Ángel Caído en El Retiro / Álvaro Ibáñez / CC BY 2.0

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Police sirens drew me out of my house Saturday around midnight, and I was surprised to see a hundred young people in the street. I live behind Warren Easton High School. Their dress made it clear the school was having a dance. The police were commanding the crowd to disperse.

This morning I talked about it with my neighbor Charles. Word on the street is that some W.E. students ran into some students from John Mac at the nearby McDonald’s and there was some straight-up old school beefing. I don’t know whether it came to blows or if a weapon was discharged but something obviously went bad or the dance wouldn’t have broken up that way.

What Cool Breezes Do

Fay

Fay was a killer storm. Yet now she’s disintegrating over land somewhere to the north and east of here, and we’re being gently lashed by cool breezes and mild drizzling rain.

It doesn’t feel like August in New Orleans, not by a long shot.

This is a dark time of the year here. August used to be my favorite month of the year. Not anymore.

But at least we have these cool breezes. I can’t help thinking how these same breezes that cool my flesh have killed people I never knew. There’s an aphorism that applies here but it’s just too damn obvious.

We seem to have a lot of local politicians and power brokers going down in flames hereabouts. But what do you do when you see that happening to a friend? I’ve seen one too many people go down like that. Our response as a society, as a community, as fellow human beings, is troubling to me. We seem to let people slide until they become a threat to themselves and others, then we step in with harsh punitive measures that often seem to make matters worse. I never know quite what to do in such situations.

I can’t believe how cool it is. We’ve turned off the AC and opened some windows.

A friend up in Indiana sent me some apples hand-picked in his yard. He also sent all the ingredients for apple crisp. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole nutmeg before. Reminds me how I dosed up on nutmeg once, oh so many years ago. A melancholy three-day trip. Seems like ancient history now. Anyway, I’m baking apple crisp today. Perfect weather for it.

My Education Question

I wanted to ask a question of the Education Panel at Rising Tide III, but time ran out and the question went unasked. So I thought I’d pose it here.

We hear a lot of talk about a great experiment going on in our fractured New Orleans school systems. We’ve got all these charter schools, many taking different and supposedly novel approaches to education. Yet still, with all this panoply of choices, this rich buffet of options, this veritable smorgåsbord — still it seems that many of the new charters emphasize only greater regimentation, greater control, longer school days, longer school years, more rigid curriculum, and so forth. The experiments are all about order, or so it seems to me. But there’s another strain of educational experimentation that doesn’t seem to be present on the local scene, the approach that emphasizes freedom, liberty, democratic process, putting children in charge of their own education. (For example, the Sudbury model.) This is the sort of educational experience I envision wanting for my own daughter. I don’t see any examples of this locally, neither public nor private, despite the supposedly rich array of choices now available to parents in New Orleans. Do you agree with this observation, and if so can you explain why this is the case?

Six Months

Dear Persephone,

You’re six months old today. That’s half a year. As for me, I just calculated that I am now 500 months old. That’s half a lifetime. It’s a well-known fact that time flows more quickly as you get older. These six months have probably seemed like an eternity to you, but I could stand on my head for six months and think nothing of it. You are experiencing so much growth, so many new things, it must be phenomenal. I can’t even imagine the world from your perspective, but I try. Just in the last month you’ve started babbling, your first tooth has come in, and you’ve just started on solid food. Research indicates that sticking to breast milk for the first six months of life can reduce the chance you’ll develop food allergies. Apparently the spaces between cells in your intestine are closed up by now, and you’re starting to produce your own antibodies, so taking in some other food should be safer for you. I’d have liked to delay solids for another month or two but your mom felt it was time. So far you’ve had four or five (tiny) meals of applesauce, and you seem to like it. In general you smile and laugh so much it’s really disarming, and I’ve wondered what on earth you have to be so happy about. You’ve been going to daycare (or “school” as we like to call it) for a month now, and the staff says you’re the happiest baby there. Well, somebody has to be.

People keep warning me that it won’t go on like this forever. Just wait until she starts teething. (And you have been fussier with that tooth coming in.) Wait until she starts crawling. Or walking. Or talking. Wait until she’s ten, or thirteen, or twenty-one. It’s only going to get worse. I’ve realized all these naysayers are doing me an immense favor. They’re managing my expectations. They’ve drummed me up so full of dread that reality can only be a relief.

Stress Test

Last month I was experiencing some weird gastric discomfort, like a dull ache in my stomach which kept coming and going for several weeks. It was bad enough to disrupt my routine, to keep me from doing things I’d normally do.

At my mother-in-law’s suggestion, I visited the doctor. He gave me an EKG as a matter of course, explaining that he didn’t expect to find anything. But when he looked at the results, he said, “I almost don’t believe this, but there’s an irregularity here. It’s probably nothing, but now we need to give you a stress test just to make sure.”

Naturally the stomach pain has disappeared and not returned since that doctor visit. But, being a believer in the value of early detection, I went ahead with it.

This morning I skipped my usual coffee (having tapered off over the last week to avoid a withdrawal headache) and reported to the clinic, just a short distance from home. After the usual sheaf of paperwork, they shot me full of isotopes, because this was a nuclear stress test. Then they stuck an IV double pigtail stent in my arm so they could inject more isotopes later.

Shortly thereafter, I had my chest scanned by a LEHR (Low Energy High Resolution) collimator, which took about twenty minutes as the machine rotated slowly around me, gathering data for a 3D image of my heart. A while after that, they pasted electrode all over my chest, attached a blood pressure cuff to my arm and some other sort of monitor to my finer, shot some isotopes through the stent, and had me get on the treadmill, a Marquette 2000. They had me walk at faster speeds and increasing incline until I hit my target heart rate of 179 bpm. They continued to monitor me until my signals returned to normal. Finally, after another break, I was back on the collimator for another scan.

All done in three and a half hours. The doctor was monitoring the electrocardiogram results as I trod upon the mill, and he didn’t spot anything unusual, but I gather they have to analyze all the data before they can issue a clean bill of health. So, here’s hoping.

One of my co-workers remarked that I’m “the last person who needs a stress test. You’re the least-stressed person I know.” I wonder if that’s how people generally perceive me.

Update: My doctor’s office called me and informed me I got a complete clean bill of health from the stress test.

NFO

The biggest single thing my department does every year is New Faculty Orientation, which is today. This year we’ve got the biggest crop of new faculty ever, bigger even than last year.

New Faculty Orientation

Xy says we’re very smart to have this event. Despite all the professional development days, her school offers no special support for new teachers.

Of course I always pause to think about the old faculty who are no longer with us. But still, it is pretty cool to see all this fresh young blood coming into the University.

At the Meeting

So I went to that meeting last Monday night, the scoping meeting where the Veteran’s Administration sought public input on the possibility of locating their regional medical center at the old Lindy Boggs site. I won’t rehash the background details, since I already wrote about that last week. Instead I just wanted to record a few notes about what went on at the meeting before it’s completely faded from my mind.

Before the public comment, a number of officials spoke, but the person who made the biggest impression on me was Ed Blakely, the Recovery Czar. I was really taken aback by his comments. He basically said if the Lindy Boggs site was chosen, the VA would get no help from the City of New Orleans. His office will provide assistance for one site only: the “preferred site” in lower Mid-City. In other words, the City will help take land through eminent domain and raze acres of historic neighborhood — but won’t provide any assistance if the VA decides to build on the site of an old hospital. I found that strange, to say the least. Why would the City be so adamant about this? Should the Recovery Czar be bending over backward to help the VA Medical Center get built at the best possible site in Orleans Parish, regardless of any preconceived notions about where that site might be?

When the public comment section began, I saw essentially two camps: suits and citizens. All the suits spoke about the value of “synergy,” justifying the need to build in lower Mid-City next to the planned LSU Medical Center. All the citizens said, build it at Lindy Boggs. It was really quite dramatic.

I also heard a couple veterans speak. (Imagine that.) They just want the damn thing built as quickly as possible so they can get some decent medical care. Building at Lindy Boggs would seem to be the quickest route, since they’d be dealing with a single property owner, no need to mess with eminent domain, etc.

I really didn’t want to go to that meeting in the first place, but I attended out of a sense of civic duty. I kind of suspected the fix was already in, and this was all a charade. Much of what I saw there bore that out. Yet since then, I’ve heard that the VA really is considering all the possibilities. So I will be following this issue with great interest.