Bulletin Board

Greenwood, circa 1983: After I moved downstairs into what was previously my father’s study, I set up this bulletin board over my bed.

Bulletin Board

A content analysis will reveal something of my interests as a high school student: Tolkien, D&D, science, religion, theater.

And here’s the same bulletin board with another couple years’ accretions. Increased emphasis on music and friends.

Bulletin Board

Some Changes to Our Broadcast Schedule

Radio FM Broadcast TX - Rack

I’ve made a few changes to radio.rox. It’s no longer 24/7 as a rule. Too much hassle to program overnight when no one’s listening anyway. Instead the broadcast schedule will more closely reflect the rhythm of our lives. The typical weekday schedule looks like this for now:

  • Broadcast day begins 5:45 AM (Central Time, natch). Music starts mellow and gradually works its way up from there.
  • From approximately 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM it’s an eclectic mix of all genres and variable quality. The mix may lose coherence as the day goes on, if it ever has any coherence to lose. Longer pieces of questionable listenability may creep in occasionally, like the odd sermon or extended power electronics exploration. Sorry about that.
  • Around dinner time you are likely to hear some mellow jazz.
  • After dinner you may hear some mellow laid-back tracks. This may eventually devolve into Gothic Darkness or hours of ambient or something else entirely. If I were to play an album in its entirety it would probably be in the evening.
  • Broadcast day usually ends sometime between 8:00 PM and midnight.

Weekends are a whole ‘nother story. See if you can figure it out.

It’s rare for me to have more than one listener at any given time (and mostly that’s me listening from work) but there has been a fairly steady trickle of listeners. Mostly I see hits coming from Indiana (Indianapolis and Bloomington) and New Orleans, but what’s most intriguing are the repeated hits from Beijing and other places where I have no idea who might be on the other end of the wire. Two nights ago we had a listener in Manchester UK for a couple hours.

I’ve been trying to figure our some sorta channel for communication about what’s playing in the mix, though I’m not sure anyone really wants to talk about that. I’ve added a simple chat box to the side of the radio.rox page and I’ve created a twitter account @roxradio, but I haven’t posted anything to it yet. I don’t really have anything to say but I’d like to at least be able to answer questions. I really need something that would push to me via e-mail otherwise I just won’t see them, but creating a full-fledged discussion group seems like overkill. I’m not really sure what’s best, so I’m open to suggestions. Basically I’d like all listeners to be able to textually chat with one another and me, with a push to my e-mail. Seems like it should be simple.

Floored

I recently got our energy bill for the period covering the recent cold snap: $500! Granted that was some record-setting weather but still… $500! Ouch. I’m still in shock. Or perhaps I should say I’m floored.

Some of my friends assumed this high bill was indicative of high energy costs here in Southeast Louisiana. I don’t know how we compare to other parts of the country, but I don’t think that’s the culprit.

Rather, it’s the amount of electricity used. We clocked almost 6,000 killowatt hours over the course of that month. That’s 174.9 kwh per day. I suppose it’s possible Entergy misread the meter, but let’s assume it’s accurate for now.

How could we possibly have consumed that much energy?

I suspect the problem is lack of insulation. We thought we were in pretty good shape because the house was insulated as part of the renovation. As the seller informed us:

The exterior walls of the house have R13 fiberglass insulation throughout the house. The second floor attic has R30. The lower attic (over the kitchen area) has R19, which was the heaviest insulation that would fit between the joists over that area….

All of the [vinyl] replacement windows (which includes most of the windows in the house) are double-glazed Low E, and Energy Star rated.

However, there’s no insulation underneath the house. Since it’s raised a few feet off the ground, that means plenty of air gets underneath there and when it’s cold you can definitely feel it.

It seems that insulating beneath raised houses in New Orleans presents special challenges. I found an interesting article about this, which outlines the four basic choices: fiberglass, rigid foam board, open-cell spray foam or closed-cell spray foam.

But the more I read the more daunting it looks. I was heartened to learn that a scientific study has been mounted right here in New Orleans, using the different methods to insulate underneath twelve houses in Musicians’ Village for twelve months. But after scouring the web I couldn’t find the final report, so I contacted the principal investigator (Sam Glass at the USDA FPS) and am waiting for a reply.

It’s all further complicated by the fact that our floor could use some repairs in a few places. I assume it would be best to address these repairs before adding insulation.

I don’t think this is something I’m going to tackle myself. There are just too many variables, too many things to screw up, and more work than I have time to accomplish, what with being a public school widower and a daddy.

Oh, the joys of home ownership.

Black & Gold & Blue & White Superbowl

Ekambaranathar

Yesterday everyone on campus was wearing black and gold — except for our administrative assistant. A Colts fan from way back, she was defiant in a blue and white dress which she’d been saving for the occasion. She’ll be rooting for the Colts in the Superbowl. But even she was happy the Saints will be there too.

This is the match-up I was hoping to see. Months ago when both the Colts and the Saints were racking up consecutive wins, it occurred to me that it could happen. And since I grew up in Indianapolis and still have friends and family there, I decided I really wanted it to happen, and have fervently wished for it ever since. I only wish I’d been bolder and predicted that it would happen. Then I could brag.

It should be a fun game. Think about it: the Hoosier team with the New Orleans quarterback versus the New Orleans team with the (sorta) Hoosier quarterback. I say “sorta” because Drew Brees went to Purdue, and we all know the Hoosiers are Indiana University. But I guess if we accept Boilermakers in my family I can forgive Drew too.

Diehard Saints fans are blissful at the mere prospect of seeing their team in the big game for the first time in the 43 year history of the franchise. There’s a sense of victory in the air already. No matter what happens in Miami, New Orleans still wins.

People might suspect me of having divided loyalties, but that’s not the case. Sure, I grew up in Indy, but I was never a Colts fan. I’ve only come to appreciate football (insofar as I do) recently. I haven’t followed the Saints long enough or studied the league hard enough to appreciate the Manning dynasty. Although it’s an interesting backstory, I don’t personally care about the fact that Peyton Manning is from New Orleans. I’m for the Saints all the way. They are the only team I’ve ever known.

In fact, it’s kind of amazing to me that I’m actually excited about the Superbowl this year. For most of my life this has been a “dead” day, a time when everyone in the country seems to be preoccupied with a strange event that is absolutely meaningless to me.

This one’s different.

Not Just a Game

Just when I thought the whole sequence of events couldn’t get any stranger, in the midst of unpacking I was summoned via text message to Ashley’s grave where I partook in a bizarre quasi-religious sports ritual.

H. Ashley Morris

It was funny but also deadly serious. And it struck me:

It’s not just a game.

Meanwhile, up north, Aunt Karen & Aunt Ron say they will be wearing their “Helga Viking helmets” all weekend, so “beware of the power of the old Norwegians!”

Yes, I’ve got Viking blood in my veins. Yet these Saints have turned me against the old Nordic ways.

Serious stuff. Not just a game.

Aunt Karen wants to know: “Ya’ll doing that vodoo stuff down there??”

Oh yeah, Auntie K. We doing #whodat voodoo down here.

Michael and Howie ventured to Kiln, Mississippi, yesterday. On my advice they took some soil from Brett Favre’s boyhood home, mixed it with salt and wrapped in foil. Michael will be taking this little hex package to the Dome tonight for maximum proximity.

It’s not just a game.

They say this is the biggest contest the Saints have ever played in the history of the franchise — which, coincidentally, is the same age as me.

I can find no better words for today than what Ashley wrote three years ago upon getting the biggest damn fleur de lis tattoo you’ve ever seen:

Pride in a city, pride in a team.

Where does the team end and the city begin? These days, who knows.

It’s not just a game.

Who-dat nation is everywhere, thanks to the flood.

Our “leaders” have abandoned us.

People think we’re idiots…but we fight back. Hard.

We know what’s important, and they’re trying to rip it away from us.

But nothing is more important to us than our city, and our team. We will carry it with us always.

We are New Orleans.

We are the New Orleans Saints.

Geaux Saints. Win this one for Ashley. Who dat!

Fumigation Days

The fumigation we’d originally planned for early December has finally been accomplished, and I must say despite the hassle that it’s better to complete than to abort.

All living things have to be removed from the house prior to fumigation, and relocated elsewhere for approximately 48 hours. (Actually that’s not true; indeed, the whole point of fumigation is to kill off some living things. I did not relocate the termites.) Also, all food has to be remove from the house, except stuff that is canned or otherwise “factory sealed.”

This is similar to evacuation and just as fun. In some ways it’s even more fun.

Redrum

It’s spooky being inside a house all wrapped up — tarps filtering red light thru windows.

Cream & Crimson

I feel like I’m in a Christo installation.

Our House

You’ve been clamoring for a photo of our new house. So, here it is. It was pumped full of poison gas when this was taken.

We spent two nights uptown with my boss. She and her husband were incredibly accommodating and gracious hosts.

After they took off the tarp they put this sign on the house while we waited for the poison gas to disperse:

Peligro

An unanticipated side benefit to this whole ordeal — our daughter has finally been weaned.

Carseat

Did I mention we have three cats and a rabbit? They handled the dislocation better than we did.

Carriers

So we’re back in our home now, but the termites presumably are not.

A few more photos in this set.

Overheard at the Playground

Serpent Mound

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the playground on the Jeff Davis neutral ground with my daughter. We approached Serpent Mound at the same time as a trio of kids in elementary school uniforms.

I noticed the youngest child, a girl with a withered arm, was crying. I asked if she was OK. One of the other children, a boy just a few years older, said, “I slapped her.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I’m her brother,” he said, as if that explained everything. Maybe it did.

The third child, who appeared to be the older sister, was picked up the younger girl and gave her some advice: “Grandma says if someone slaps you, you gotta slap them right back.” And she pushed her sister toward her brother, but she wouldn’t engage him.

Is this indicative of the deadly violence so deeply ingrained in our culture? Or is it just harmless playground fun?

Today is the Strike Against Crime organized by SilenceIsViolence. Please take a moment to “find some way to step outside your normal daily routine, to express the toll violence takes” on all of us.

Twenty-Three Months

Strolling

Dear Persephone,

You are twenty-three months old today.

Recently your have begun formulating simple sentences, and in the last month I’ve noticed you have begun to issue commands. When you’re seated at the breakfast table, waiting for me to join you, you’ll point to my seat and say “Sit, Dada!” You’ll hand me a book and say “Read it, Dada!” And of course my favorite is when you want me to get out of bed in the morning: “Uppie uppie, Dada!”

A couple weeks ago when I was tucking you in I wished you sweet dreams, and I swear you said, “Sweet dreams, Dada!”

Speaking for dreams, you were having a nightmare a few nights ago and you practically shouted: “Brown shoes! Brown shoes!” I can only imagine what that dream was about. You do have two sets of brown shoes which you love to wear.

And speaking of shoes, just when I thought you couldn’t get any cuter, yesterday my shoe came untied, and you rushed over and said, “Help you, Dada!” Of course you can’t tie a shoelace just yet, but you stuck your finger in there and gave me some moral support. It’s the thought that counts.

Most of all, I continue to be amazed at your sheer joyfulness. Everything is new to you. You take delight in the simplest things, like going for a walk or holding a balloon. And if I take you to the playground you’re practically beside yourself.

It’s infectious.

XLIII

B @ 43

It’s shaping up as something of a tradition in its own right. My birthday has an overt tendency to suck. A quick recap may be in order.

  • 42: “Guess who forgot? That’s right. Xy.”
  • 41: “I’ve got no festivity in my life whatsoever. Xy didn’t even say ‘Happy Birthday’ this morning, and she has report card conferences this evening! No one at the office knows it’s my birthday, because I’ve kept it under wraps.”
  • 40: “Please be gentle with me. I’m making 40 today. I’d rather be thinking about other things, but life doesn’t seem to be working out that way, and this is what I’m stuck with. Like it or not.”

That 40th birthday was really the worst. Not only was I reeling from the brutal murder of a friend, I was also feeling pressure to be some sort of spokesman on the subject of violent crime, a role for which I found myself remarkably unsuited. Still I recall Xy managed to spend an evening sucking down oysters and booze in the Quarter. There was still a flicker of festive spirit there, however dark the backdrop. In terms of actual celebration it’s been strictly downhill since.

Prior to that I’m not sure, but I’d pretty much lost interest in my birthday after making 30.

Come to think of it, my 30th birthday pretty much sucked ass too, though I tried to put a good face on it: “Everyone was laughing and smoking and drinking and having a good time. Except for me. Well, I laughed and had a good time, but I didn’t drink or smoke. I never thought I’d be stone cold sober on my 30th birthday! Life is strange.”

Now back to the present. Our girl woke up around 4:00 AM and landed in our bed for a little nursing session, after which Xy fled to the couch downstairs. P let me sleep in until 9:00 AM. She woke up happy, I asked her whose birthday it was, and she said “Dada!” The day seemed to be getting off to an auspicious start.

Then Xy came up and informed me that she’d been barfing since 5:00 AM. And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. It was very much a repeat of yesterday. Xy was sick yesterday with a migraine. This morning’s sickness may have been food poisoning. So I played “single dad” while Xy rested (when not puking) and tried to feel better.

Oh, yes, there are worse things — I know. I had fun taking the girl to the park in the morning. She was beside herself with joy at the prospect of sliding down the slide.

Eggies

For lunch we went to Huevos, which is spitting distance from our new house. I got to meet the chef who has the same first name as me. I presume we don’t share the same birthday. But I didn’t check.

Xy’s feeling better now. We’re chugging on with our lives. Her birthday sucked too, for what it’s worth.

A number of people have suggested that Xy’s sicknesses, coming in the morning as they have, could be an indication of pregnancy. I have to respond: Not unless you know something I don’t. I know how babies get made and I can assure you I haven’t impregnated anyone lately.

Hamstrung

If I haven’t written here as much lately, perhaps it’s because I feel constrained from public discussion of many of the topics which are currently preoccupying me.

  • There’s an election coming up, and I’ve got opinions, but I’m afraid to express them. Whoever wins, FOLC will have to work with them. It won’t help FOLC’s cause if the president (me) makes public pronouncements on one side or the other. Whoever gets elected can wield considerable influence for (or against) the greenway project. Therefore it seems most wise to keep my mouth shut.
  • Speaking of the greenway, we’ve been having some frustrations there as well. It’s related to the mess outlined by the American Zombie. FOLC has sent a letter to the administration and continues to try to get a meeting. There’s plenty more to say, but discretion seems advisable at this juncture.
  • On a more personal level, there’s been some unfortunate infighting amongst my co-workers. Not in my unit, happily, but close enough to impinge on me. It’s actually been fascinating, in a sad way, to see all this unfold, but I’ll be damned if I write about it. That could only serve to embarrass those persons involved, and possibly my employer. I resolved long ago not to embarrass my employer in my writings here. That’s in fact why I never mention my employer by name, and just refer to “the University.” I like my job too much to play it any other way.
  • By the same token, I’m not going to write about Xy’s discontent with her work environment, except to say it’s bad. Real bad. Leaving the interpersonal differences and administrative challenges aside, she’s sick of the hours. So am I. She’s tired of working a ten hour day and then having a couple hours of homework per night. She feels she’s missing out on her daughter growing up. So she may well be looking for another line of work come fall.

If no one read this blog, I could sound off on any topic with impunity. If I had a huge readership, I could perhaps wield some influence through my writings. As it stands, I’m in that broad middle zone where I get just enough attention to constrain but not enough to liberate.

And of course what’s going on in Haiti right now makes all this seem rather trivial, but I don’t have anything insightful to add about that either.

So I just don’t have anything to say right now. Sorry.

Thawing Out

There was a little frost outside this morning, but our cold snap seems to be coming to an end. The morning bike ride was chilly but not bone-chilling. It looks as though we won’t see freezing temperatures for the rest of the week. Hopefully the rest of the season! Personally I’d be happy if I never experienced anything below 50ºF for the rest of my life. That’s plenty cold enough for me.

Xy left some overripe pomegranate on the deck for the birds to eat. I was taken with the image of the red fruit covered with white frost.

Frosted Pomegranate

As Casey pointed out, this is “chock full o’ meaning re: the Persephone myth!” Which is oh-so-true. Can’t believe I didn’t recognize that myself.

Speaking of the goddess, we were exploring the back yard yesterday and made a fun discovery. Some water had pooled on a tarp and remained frozen in a large sheet. That allowed me to take this photo, which I call “Toddler Encased in a Block of Ice!”

Toddler Encased in a Block of Ice! [crop]

Alas it seems that a lot of our plants have probably not survived. I brought in some of the smaller potted plants, but we did not cover any of the bushes and trees small trees, and it’s looking like we should have. The house came so nicely landscaped too. I guess we just haven’t been there long enough to be thoroughly familiar with the grounds and their upkeep. We also had a fish die; not sure if that was related to the cold or not. The flora and fauna generally falls under Xy’s purview, and she’d been pretty much out of commission ever since our trip out west. Hopefully she will feel better soon.

My Big Chill

By strange coincidence, I found myself watching The Big Chill Friday night. It’s one of those super-famous movies that I’ve just somehow never seen.

Alas, when the flick was over and I turned in for the evening, I neglected to leave a trickle of water running, as I’d done Thursday night. This, despite the fact I knew we were still under a hard freeze warning, with potential record-breaking lows on the way. Sheer stupidity.

See, here in New Orleans many houses have pipes on the outside, exposed to the elements. You can get away with that here for years at a time.

Sure enough, when I woke up this morning, we had no water out the hot taps. The cold taps were working fine.

As I examined our plumbing with greater scrutiny, I concluded that most of our pipes are enclosed. The only place a couple feet of pipe are exposed is our hot water exchange.

Hot H2O Exchange

Those short little blue pipes leading into and out of our tankless water heater are what froze overnight. By the afternoon they were thawed and appeared to be no worse for the wear.

I tried to pick up some pipe insulation, but the local stores were all sold out. So I improvised, and wrapped the pipes in some foam which I cut from a mattress pad. I secured the foam with garbage-bag twist-ties. I’m actually pretty happy with the result.

As I was driving around Mid-City looking for pipe insulation, I saw the fountain in front of Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street had frozen quite beautifully.

Frozen Fountain

It was quite striking. I only wish I’d had a better camera with me.

Meanwhile the Banks Street Bar is advertising that, indeed, they “Have Heat.”

We Have Heat

Now we are bracing for round three tonight. It will be nice when things warm up next week.

Oh, as for The Big Chill? Not bad. Fun to watch. But I’m not sure I understand why it has such a rep. To watch the retrospective featurette, you’d think they invented the ensemble film. I’m not sure that’s the case. Maybe its success is simply a matter of generational resonance? I’ll have to quiz my boomer friends.

Coldest

We are experiencing the coldest damn weather since we moved here to New Orleans ten years ago. In fact it may break records going back much further than that.

Our new house is raised and has no subfloor. I’d been told a cold wind can whip under the floor something fierce, and sure enough over the last month I thought it was somewhat chilly. But this morning it was virtually unbearable. Lucky we have an upstairs. I think we may have to live up there for the next day or two.

It was cold enough I decided not to take the girl on the bike this morning. Instead, I bundled her up and put her in the stroller. After dropping her off at daycare I walked to work. I saw ice on the street in three places. The first time it didn’t even register as unusual. But the second time I started wondering, when’s the last time I saw natural ice here in New Orleans? I can’t remember.

Sometimes we get through a whole winter without a hard freeze here. The temperature may dip down and flirt with freezing briefly, but that’s not enough to produce ice. Hard freezes require several hours below freezing. We’ve had a number of those over our decade here, but I can’t remember the last time it was still below freezing at 10:30 AM.

This cold snap comes on the heels of the wettest month in the recorded history of the city. I’ve had enough extreme weather to last me a while.

(Oh, by the way, I lived up by the arctic circle for a year. I know what “real” cold is. Are you familiar with -30ºF? I am. But I also know at some point it’s just too damn cold, and we have reached that point.)

My Absolute Favorite Albums of the Aughts

Here are my favorite albums released from 2000 to 2009. I tried to narrow this down to a top ten, but I just couldn’t make the final cuts, so it’s a baker’s dozen.

Who Needs Electricity? by Operation: Cliff Clavin [2000] — Acoustic anarcho-primitivist folkpunk from Bloomington, Indiana. O:CC was one of my favorite punk bands of all time, and this is sort of an “unplugged” version of their own previously released originals — but framed as the future of rock after the collapse of civilization and attendant loss of ubiquitous electrical power. And in fact the sound of this album was indicative of the future direction Chris and Hannah would take with Ghost Mice. I think you can still get this for five bucks from Plan-It-X. Remember, if it ain’t cheap it ain’t punk.

Blazing Arrow by Blackalicious [2002] — Just the coolest hip-hop album ever. I’m really not sure how I first heard this music, but as soon as I heard it, I had to buy the album. Pitchfork calls it “unstoppably joyous” and it truly is.

Black Earth by Bohren & der Club of Gore [2002] — Mellow, instrumental, dark, dark, dark, depressive, almost ambient jazz. There’s a good review on PopMatters.

The Ghastly Grimey Orchestra of New Orleans by The Ghastly Grimey Orchestra of New Orleans [2002] — A freaky folky experimental project from New Orleans, inspired by Edward Gorey. I had to special order this from Dublin, strangely enough. I discovered this one through random googling and became fascinated by the story behind the album. It seems a bunch of freaks hanging out in (pre-Katrina) New Orleans decided to record one song for each letter in the Gashlycrumb Tinies. They recorded each track with a different roster of musicians in different locations around town. One track was recorded in a moving elevator at Nowe Miasto, passing by musicians on different floors. Bizarre, obscure, dark, and awesome. Learn more, see a video, and get this album from Stitchy Press.

1 by Popchor Berlin [2002] — Poppy cover songs done by a choir in Berlin. There are only five songs on this EP but they range from damn good to transcendentally brilliant. Thanks to Liza for turning me on to them.

IAO (Music in Sacred Light) by John Zorn [2002] — Avant-garde ritualistic experimentalism that pushes all the right buttons for me. A more thoughtful review can be found on All About Jazz.

e.p. by Liquid Crystal Display [2002] — Psychedelic pop/rock from Bloomington, Indiana. You can get all their albums free through archive.org.

Wölfl Piano Sonatas by Jon Nakamatsu [2003] — What’s an album of classical piano pieces doing here? Thanks to Brian Denzer for turning me on to this. He played some of this on WTUL one morning many years ago. For what it’s worth, Fanfare gives this “absolutely the highest recommendation.”

Lords of the Green Grass by Xenis Emputae Travelling Band [2003] — Mellow ambient experimental droning psychedelic British freefolk with a psychogeographical twist. This album has been re-released under a Creative Commons license, so you can download the entire album (in MP3 format) from Larkfall.

Here Comes the Troublemakers by The Troublemakers [2004] — Superb, ska-inflected pop-rock that combines anarchy, romance and fun. Includes such fabulous anthems as “International Flag-Burning Day” and “Emma Goldman,” zany fun songs like “Opposite Machine,” and sweet ballads such as “Never Be Alone.” Buy this one from Louisiana Music Factory before they run out. Trust me on this one.

Super Heavy Organ by Robert Walter [2005] — Funky jazzy instrumental organ recorded live in New Orleans. Walter was playing in Bloomington, Indiana, just days after Katrina. I’d evacuated there, so I talked my way into the concert, which is where I picked up this album.

Satanische Vrede by Silvester Anfang [2006] — Dark droning experimental psychedelic Belgian free-folk. I find their sound absolutely mind-blowing in a subtle, insidious way. They self-describe as “post-satanic krautfolk,” and that seems pretty accurate. This album is out of print, but you can get a sample MP3 from Kraak.

Seraphim by Irfan [2008] — Dark mystical Bulgarian neofolk. Ethereal female vocals over a male choir with that distinctive Balkan sound. I believe I stumbled onto this album via last.fm. Too beautiful. There’s a review on Heathen Harvest.

Finally, I should note this list was inspired by a post Jeb made at Musical Family Tree and also by J’s list. Thanks, guys, for suckering me in. This list took way longer to compile than I anticipated.

Now can we get on with this next decade please?

Catching Up to the Present

Sacred Fart Activity Center

I’m still trying to catch up to the present.

We celebrated Xy’s birthday last Tuesday. Since she was feeling sick and I was run ragged it was a pretty lame birthday, but of course she’s used to such disappointments, as are all children of late December. I tried to recontextualize the Escape as Xy’s birthday present, one day late. We just ignored the part about her totaling the previous vehicle.

The Orleans Avenue bonfire was tamed last year and completely extinguished this year, crushed under bureaucracy and public safety concerns. I think that’s a shame, but it didn’t really affect us, because our daughter’s too young to go anyway. So we did like last year, stayed home and did our own bonfire ritual. We lit an ultra-mini-bonfire — a candle actually — which we placed on the neutral ground in front of our home at midnight. Xy and I each ran around it three times. Since the girl was asleep in her crib at this point, we represented her symbolically with her pink steel-tipped cowgirl boots. Xy took one and I took the other and we made three more circles round the flame. So many neighbors were shooting off fireworks that P was soon awake again, and she joined us for a bowl of Hoppin’ John.

Santa Flag

The weekend was spent in preparing Xy’s classroom at her new school. New school? What, did she change jobs? No, actually it’s a top-to-bottom renovation and expansion of the old school on its pre-Katrina site; they were in a temporary location and just moved back to the old/new school over the holiday break. It’s a very nice renovation job indeed, with a great blending of historical details and modern amenities.

Of course, there are some challenges. For one thing, Xy was assigned a consultant to scrutinize her teaching, which nearly drove her to a nervous breakdown, and this guy was observing her in the classroom right up to the last day of school in December. That meant that while all the other teachers were packing, Xy couldn’t, and so moving was quite the headache. Then a bunch of well-meaning volunteers who helped move her stuff “unpacked” all her science kits, creating complete chaos in her new classroom. She’s got a generous amount of storage space in a large closet with lots of shelves, but someone closed the door to the closet and it automatically locked and for a good long while no one could get it open. She had a ton of stuff taking up valuable space in the classroom which needed to go in the closet, as well as a good number of items already in the closet which she needed to get out. But we couldn’t do a damn thing because the door was locked. Neither of the “master keys” held by the principal and the foreman would work. Finally, late Saturday evening, some guy in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt came by and got it open, much to our relief. I immediately taped the latch open so she wouldn’t get locked out again. Little things like that can wreck one’s mental health. Inside the closet we discovered Xy’s missing potted plants, squirreled away by another well-meaning volunteer. They were still alive, luckily. Who puts plants in a closet?

Another gotcha: The new classrooms have these really cool stucco-type walls. Tape won’t adhere to them. Pins won’t stick. Neither will staples. Xy tested a hot glue gun on a discrete patch and discovered the glue pulls off chunks of wall. We ended up using sticky-tack. The next day an edict came down from the principal not to use that either. Too late for Xy’s classroom, but I’m not sure what the other teachers are going to do. Most teachers have an overwhelming compulsion to put stuff on their walls, and the idea of a school with pristine walls that can’t be junked up with thousands of educational posters and student projects is bizarre to me.

All the rooms are equipped with SMART boards, and luckily those seem to be working. Xy got addicted to using such technology in the classroom over the last few years, and getting through the first half of this school year without was difficult.

They are bringing the students back to the new/old school in stages. Today is Xy’s first day with students (seventh graders) while the younger kids will be coming back later in the week.

What else? We gave the girl her first haircut, and her cuteness now surpasses all expectation. She took her first pee in the potty last night and was so excited she reached in with her hand to stir it around.

So I guess that brings us up to the present day. Carnival starts tonight. Mardi Gras is in six short weeks. I sure hope it’s warmer then than it is now. It’s actually colder at this particular moment in New Orleans than it is out in Manzanita, Oregon. And it’s forecast to get colder still for the rest of the week. As I said yesterday morning, “This arctic wind really puts the sub back in subtropical.”

Too Young to Compute

Oh, I guess there is one other thing. My phone’s camera was on the fritz for a while, displaying only a weird solarized version of reality and unable to actually take photos. Following a tip from an online forum, I removed the cover and pushed on the lens a little. Somehow it seemed to make a difference, and thus I was able to retrieve these fabulous photos which don’t really have any connection to what I’ve written here.

We Roll Tight Whips Every Day

When we were out in Oregon there was a story on the news that caught my interest, out of the corner of my eye, about Jeff “Free” Luers being released from prison.

Luers was arrested and convicted for setting fire to three vehicles back in 2000. The guy was trying to make a protest statement about global warming. Over the past decade I saw his name pop up regularly in the pages of Fifth Estate, but I wasn’t really familiar with the details of his case.

Turns out he was sentenced to 22 years in prison . This was later reduced to ten years. He served nine and a half before his release last month. In weird twist, he was mistakenly released in October, then taken back into custody after six hours.

The 22-year sentence was way out of proportion to the crime committed, but I can’t condone his actions. Surely there are more creative ways to create the media spectacle he desired, that wouldn’t exact such a heavy price on his personal freedom. However, I do have to admit it led to a discussion with my co-workers back in 2000 about how SUVs guzzle gasoline and how our rapacious consumption of fossil fuels is generally not good. So who knows? Maybe Luers was on to something. He could have plea-bargained, and he chose not to. His interview on Democracy Now is worth a look.


(All of that serves as an introduction of sorts to what follows.)

I really don’t like cars much. In my opinion automotive technology has had a deleterious effect on America and the world. But it’s a sad fact that I couldn’t imagine living in New Orleans without a car. All other contingencies to the side, we need one to evacuate. I’m certainly not going to rely on the “public option” to get out of town when a storm’s coming. And so, as long as we live here, we will be car-owners, more’s the pity.

Since Xy trashed our car a few weeks ago, we’ve been in the market. We decided we wanted something with a lot of ground clearance, the better to handle that pesky street flooding. Since we might need to haul three cats and a rabbit on an evacuation, an SUV started to seem like the best option. Xy and I have always despised the craze for Urban Assault Vehicles; we certainly never thought we’d own one.

I decided that if we went that route we’d need to get a hybrid. That narrowed the field considerably. Searching online, I found one for sale from Banner Ford in Mandeville, a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid with 29,000 miles. I negotiated the price over the phone over the course of last Wednesday morning, talking them down from $20K to $19K. I tried for $18K but they held fast and I caved first. Anyway I was happy with the price, so I drove up to the North Shore and bought it.

I realized upon the return trip that this is the first vehicle I’ve been even vaguely excited about owning in over twenty years — since I got my first car.

Voodoo Wagon

Of course our new ride is a little bit nicer than the Voodoo Wagon, but mainly I just think the hybrid technology is kind of cool. Pulling up to a stop and hearing — nothing, because the engine isn’t running. That’s wild. Is it the way of the future? I don’t know. I understand those lithium batteries present a new sort of environmental liability. I need to find out more about that.

In the mean time I’m looking forward to having better and more reliable transportation at our disposal.

Big thanks to everybody who gave me advice on what and how to buy. Some people advised me to steer away from dealerships entirely, but I found private sellers just didn’t have what we wanted, and in the final analysis I don’t think we got screwed too badly.

One final footnote: The vehicles Luers torched in 2000 were not actually SUVs but light trucks for a commercial fleet. The reportage on this story has consistently said they were SUVs, and I thought that was the case, but apparently not. I just felt compelled to correct that detail.

Scratch and Crow

I recently got word that Helen Hill’s film Scratch and Crow has been named to the National Film Registry.

Each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the registry that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant to be preserved for all time. These films are selected as works of enduring importance to American culture.

We got out our DVD of Helen’s films and watched Scratch and Crow. Yessir, it’s a gooder, and I’m glad to see it so recognized. And it’s in good company — Dog Day Afternoon and The Muppet Movie were also named this year.

A Tale of Two T-Shirts

I spent the last week recovering from my family reunion. We have one every five years, and this was the tenth such event. The family is spread around the country pretty well (except for the northeast) so we have been rotating the location ever since my grandmother sold the farm. This time we were in the Pacific Northwest, on the coast — Manzanita, Oregon, to be exact.

It was a wonderful time for me and, I think, for all 35 attendees. Did I say I was recovering? Well, yes. It was a very full four days. Air travel is no fun, and I was especially anxious about traveling with a toddler, but our daughter did better than expected on four flights totaling over ten hours of air time. It’s actually Xy who’s had the hardest time of it. She doesn’t travel well in any event, and hanging with in-laws over the holidays is of course stressful, and she was coming down with something when we started. She’s got just about the worst cough I’ve ever heard and I think maybe an ear infection too. She’s on an antibiotic now, plus some steroids, but she’s not getting better as quickly as we’d hoped.

Yes, it’s nice to see my extended family, though to tell the truth it’s hard to really catch up when there are so many people and time is so brief. But there’s more to it than just catching up.
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