Missing Monday

I took a lot of photos on this vacation. Around 400, I think, the best of which are slowly finding their way into a set on Flickr. I’m using them to reconstruct the trip in my mind, to jog my memory as to what happened when.

And yet there’s a gap. I didn’t take any photos on Monday. Not one.

What happened on that day? Without documentation, I feel bereft — naked — alone on the edge — like Andrew Bowen during Fringe month.

That last reference may seem gratuitous but it’s not. While Xy was in Fishville I bought her a new laptop, but I had an ulterior motive: I wanted a computer to bring with me on this trip. And so I did.

(It’s an Acer Aspire AS5742z-4685 LX.R4P02.020 15.6″ Notebook, Intel Pentium P6100 2.0GHz, 4GB DDR3 Memory, 320GB HDD, DVD Super Multi-Drive, Intel GMA HD, with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit which I got for $391.09, refurbished, from Cheetah Deals via Buy.com. Thanks to all the folks who gave me pointers.)

And so I was checking my e-mail and catching up with websites like Project Conversion constantly.

Looking back on Facebook, I see I shared this link: 2011 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places with the comment, “Something to think about as the solstice approaches.”

More on the solstice later.

And on Twitter:

My three-year-old daughter wants to know: “Who is Weiner?” And so it begins.

I also used that laptop to compose my monthly letter to my daughter, though I didn’t publish it until the next day.

Thus, even though I didn’t take any photos, we can still trace my digital spoor, as it were.

I was going to write that the main break in my routine was that I didn’t blog during my week in Vero. But obviously I’ve already given the lie to that. In fact I posted to my blog three times during the week. Oops. I told myself that I wanted to maintain a normal online presence so people wouldn’t know I was away from the house, but that’s bogus.

All of which gives me pause to wonder about routines and habits. I’ve often observed that my life is a process of establishing routines and breaking them. Isn’t the point of a vacation to get outside one’s daily routine, the regular grind of the rat race? But I like my job and I don’t feel like a racing rat. I try to live my life such that I don’t feel I need a vacation. I have the good fortune of generally enjoying my daily routine. Much of that involves having my head caught up in the net. Is that a bad thing? Habits usually feel good on some level, but that doesn’t mean they’re good all the way through. I enjoy having a drink, but if I find myself drinking too much, I cut back. Should I have left the laptop at home?

Maybe next time.

Ceviche Sunday

Let’s see. My last post got us most of the way through Saturday. We arrived in Vero mid-afternoon and checked in at the Driftwood.

The Driftwood Inn

Longtime readers may recall that Xy and I took a vacation here back in June of 2007, a week of lovebugs and lovemaking. We suspect our daughter was conceived in Vero. It makes a nice story anyway. That week was our first break from the maddening grind of postdiluvian New Orleans, and boy howdy did we need it.

They say you can’t go home again. It’s probably also true that you can’t take the same vacation twice. This time around we had a three-year old with us, and my in-laws too, so it was an entirely different experience.

Having said that, I do still love the Driftwood. It is truly a unique place with an interesting history. More about that later.


While the others frolicked on the beach, my mother-in-law and I headed to the grocery and stocked up on food for the week. We might have bought a tiny bit too much. The cart was so heavy I could barely push it to checkout, and upon bagging the food filled a second cart. Thanks to Susie for picking up the tab, which was nearly $300. Back at the Driftwood we had a simple spaghetti dinner, and then I made another crucial run — to the liquor store. After some deliberation, I picked up some Dubonnet Rouge, Averna, Courvoisier, and 4 Orange. More about that later.

Sliced Peppers

Come Sunday morning, I got busy slicing. Red, yellow and green bell peppers. Purple onion. Serrano peppers. Garlic. Cilantro. Fresh grouper. And I juiced lots of lemons and limes. Yup, I was making ceviche. Have I written about my ceviche obsession? I don’t believe I have. It started last summer, prompted my an article in the paper. I’m sure there are some good options at local restaurants, but so far the only ceviche I’ve had has been prepared by my own hand. It is somewhat labor intensive, as lots and lots of fine slicing is the key. I consider such food preparation an act of devotion to family and friends, and of course I was eager to share the love with my in-laws.

While I was busy slicing like a madman, Persephone was having her first dip in the pool at Waldo’s. I was able to snap a photo from our balcony.

First Dip

Soon I had the ceviche “cooking” in the fridge. It’s the citric acid that denatures the fish. But “denaturing” sounds rather unappetizing. I think “cooking” is a better term.

Then it was my turn to frolic in the ocean.


As I mentioned earlier, it was a trip playing in the surf with Persephone. But soon enough we were back in the pool at Waldo’s.


They advertise this place as the “Last of the Great American Hangouts.” Of course we have a lot of awesome hangouts in New Orleans, but I can’t dispute that Waldo’s is a fun place. It’s on the ocean and the National Register of Historic Places. It is a restaurant and a bar and a pool and a hotel. It’s a part of the Driftwood, with rooms above the eatery and kitchen, and it’s named after the guy who created the driftwood, the eccentric Hoosier Waldo Sexton. More about him later.

As for being the “last” of its kind, well, after hanging out by the interstate exit Friday night I was ready to believe that too.

Waldo’s is also a venue for live music. On this particular Sunday afternoon, we were grooving to a duo with a surprisingly full sound, covering mostly 60s psychedelic folk rock.


I wish I’d gotten their name because they were fairly amazing. I think they played three full sets. I could have sat by the pool and listened to them forever.

Meanwhile, Persephone had latched on to a girl just a couple years older than herself and was emulating everything she did. Soon she was diving off the edge of the pool and swimming underwater. The expressions of pure joy on her face were certainly worth the trip. Sorry, I didn’t manage to get a photo.

Eventually, hunger and logic dictated that it was time for dinner. We invited Mike and Susie over to our condo for the ceviche, which I served over avocado halves, with a glass of Twisted pinot grigio. Does a lemony wine go well with a lemony dish, or is that too much lemon?


In retrospect perhaps ceviche wasn’t such a great choice. The idea of eating fish that hasn’t been cooked with heat is not appealing to everyone. I’m just not 100% sure what my in-laws thought of this dish. But I couldn’t resist that fresh grouper, and the end result was frankly delicious if I do say so myself.

Friday Dry

When my in-laws asked what time we should leave, I said 7AM, and they laughed, and my father-in-law suggested 9AM. Then it was my turn to laugh, quietly, to myself. In my mind I thought 10AM, but I didn’t take that too seriously either. When facing up to a long journey, I like to get an early start. If left to my own devices, I would probably leave at dawn. But fortunately or otherwise I am not left to my own devices. I am subject to the devices of others. Years of experience have taught me that fixating on an departure time is a losing proposition, unless there’s a plane to catch.

In the end we rolled out at 9:45AM which was fine by me. All five of us fit into our Ford Escape Hybrid. As soon as we got on the highway we determined that Xy had indeed forgotten the Scrabble game, but we didn’t turn back. Soon we were crossing the twin spans. Soon we were driving through Mississippi. Soon we were plowing through that cool tunnel beneath Mobile, Alabama. Soon we were in the Florida panhandle.

And did we drive on in stony silence? We did not. We were rocking out to a mix of cover songs I’d thrown together. Here is a sampling of the music we enjoyed, ten tracks including tunes by Caetano Veloso, Cash Nexus, and My Summer as a Salvation Soldier. They are all covers.

The title of this mix is an anagram. I was turned on to all these tracks via the late great Copy, Right? music blog by Liza Pavelich (as seen on ROX). Coincidentally it’s her birthday today.

We went 440 miles that first day. That landed us in the quaint burg of Madison, Florida. Actually I’m only guessing at its quaintness. In point of fact we never actually set foot in the town proper. We stayed at the Best Western, conveniently located near the interstate exit.

Since there were five of us in one vehicle, we made an effort to travel light. I did not pack, for example, any booze. It should therefore come as no surprise that Madison County is one of only five “dry” counties in the state of Florida. I always thought “dry” meant no alcohol whatsoever, but in this case beer and wine were legal. We were able to run to the truckstop across the way and pick up as much beer as we could possibly want. I noticed they had beverages with Smirnoff and Bacardi and other famous spirits, but upon closer examination, these all seemed to be malt beverages — in other words, flavored beer without a trace of vodka or rum. Weird. I made the highly questionable decision to pick up a big can of Sparks and an even bigger can of Tilt.

Best Western Rewards

Man — chilling poolside at a hotel in a dry county in the Deep South drinking a damn Sparks. If you haven’t done this, you should try it some time. It really puts things in some kind of perspective.

Sparks and Tilt are examples of a beverage category of which I had been blissfully ignorant. They’re called alcopops, “malt beverages to which various fruit juices or other flavorings have been added.” In retrospect, I wish I’d remained ignorant. Those things were nasty. I also regret that we didn’t at least take a curiosity cruise through Madison. That hotel by the interstate is exactly the kind of non-place that I so intensely despise with every fiber of my being. The only cool thing about being there was the cow pasture out back. Persephone had just remarked a few days earlier that she’d never seen a cow in real life, so she was fascinated.

And the next morning, when we went out to visit the cows again, we got a special treat.

Ostrich Sighting


Yes, it’s an ostrich. Or at least I think it is. A big flightless bird anyway.

We were joined at the fence by another hotel guest, a farmer from one of the Carolinas. It had rained on Friday night, but he wondered if Florida was suffering from the same dry spell as they’d been having in his neck of the woods. He observed the quality of the grass, and the low level of water in a pond in the cow pasture, and he concluded that indeed they were having a drought here, just as we’d been having in New Orleans.

After breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road again. Only 300 miles to Vero. The drive was uneventful, except for one thing. We were on the Florida Turnpike, a toll highway with limited access; we were going to make a pit stop at a service plaza but I missed the exit. So we took the next next exit, which landed us right in the middle of Orlando. (The Mall at Millenia to be precise.) We ended up eating lunch at one of the most upscale McDonald’s I’ve seen. I was impressed by the sanitary door openers in the restrooms. These were little hooks that allowed you to open the door with your wrist so you didn’t have to touch the knob with your hand. Fancy. It’s always interesting to see how the other half lives.

Thursday Off

Posting has been a little thin here lately, for good reason: I’ve been on vacation. My plan now is to back up in time and recreate these ten days in excruciating detail. So here we go. My in-laws rolled into town on Wednesday, June 15, but my vacation officially began the next day, when I took Thursday off.

Tearing It Up

My vacation got off to a cracking good start with these guys ripping up our sidewalk. They actually dug a smaller hole the day before, then came back on Thursday morning with bigger equipment for further excavations. Something to do with the gas line to the house next door, which is under renovation. (Eleven days later, the hole is still there.) I am hopeful that the repair include their crumbling driveway and that the whole situation will end better than it was before. Still, I’m a little irked cuz we just had that concrete poured nine months ago.

My first order of business for the day: a fresh haircut, which I got at my new barber shop, Loose Endz.


When I posted this photo online, I got an immediate reaction from my academic mentor, Thom G.:

Editor B I sure hope you aren’t paying someone for that hair cut. If it ain’t a Sears hedge and hair trimmer you been robbed. 😎

Ouch, Thom, you really know how to hurt a guy. Personally I was quite happy with the cut. I now felt ready for the beach.

But, of course, there was some more business to take care of before our departure. Xy insisted that we needed to run by the grocery, despite the fact that we would be hitting the road the next morning.

A fool’s errand, I thought. So naturally I volunteered.

I hopped on the bike. On the way to the store I took a gander at the Lafitte Corridor. I like to give it a look whenever I can, and I’ve been taking particular note of the section of the future greenway where the Mid-City Market is planned. It’s not looking too good. Some of the weeds are higher than my head, and junk is piling up at an alarming rate.

Red Couch

So that makes how many couches here now? Plus a gas tank and a lot of tires. Someone is using the greenway site as their personal dumping ground. All I know is the red couch wasn’t there a week earlier.

Back at home, my mother-in-law was unpacking a few heirlooms. We inherited a deluxe crucifix from Xy’s late grandmother Pauline. I quickly added it to our collection.

Crucifix Fest

This model features holy water and hosts in the secret compartment. (It’s my hope that having all these Catholic icons on display in our kitchen will inoculate Persephone against her coming year of Catholic school. With all respect due the Magisterium, there are certain dogmata down with which I cannot get. I don’t know if they touch on these in Pre-K3 but I’ll be monitoring the situation.)

That evening we went to Crescent Pie & Sausage for a fabulous dinner. I think this is one of the best restaurants in the city right now, and it’s just across the street. I’d love to eat there more frequently, but our budget don’t allow. Here’s my daughter and my father-in-law enjoying the mac & cheese and the mixed grill respectively.

Crescent Pie & Sausage

I had some sort of tomato and okra tart, a special, which was extraordinary.

Though we were sitting inside, they do have a large porch and ample outdoor seating. I noticed a jar suspended from a string, an elegant variation on the old plastic baggie trick.


We can see our house from their front porch. We could see our house from our table by the window, for that matter. Midway through dinner we saw a distinctive red truck pull up in front of our house. I ran out and said hi to DJ and snapped this picture.


He was dropping off a package of hair bands for Persephone.

What else? I guess that was it. So ended my first day of vacation. More to come!

Rogue Spirituality

Project Conversion is still getting into my head. I came across a phrase there one night, a phrase that stuck with me: the spiritual rogue. It got stuck in my head, and the next morning I came back to the site and looked for it and couldn’t find it and thought I’d dreamed it. But it was there, all right, buried in an offhand comment. A week later it’s still with me.

Before going further I suppose I need to clarify what the s-word means to me. Spirit, spiritual, spirituality. I know people have many different ideas and emotions about this. The very word may become an obstacle because it conjures so many negative associations. Yet at the core, I think of spirituality as encompassing three main things which few would deny: meaning, values, purpose. (Props to Arthur Zajonc.) Forget about all the other baggage (religion, dogma, mystical experiences, prayer, ritual, tradition, church, incense, afterlife, divinity) for a moment. When I think of the spiritual aspect of life, I’m thinking about meaning, values, and purpose. If there’s a better word for this, I don’t know what it is, though I’m certainly open to suggestions.

So back to this phrase, the spiritual rogue. It resonates with a double meaning. The first image in my mind is that of a socially independent “drifter” type who has a sensitivity to spiritual issues. But then there’s also the idea of a person whose spirituality is sort of rugged and individualistic.

And, surprise surprise, I kind of see myself in both of these images. I’ve been a spiritual rogue for most of my life — all my adult life, in fact. There’s nothing particularly unique about that. I suspect it’s a quintessential modern American experience. We are a nation of spiritual rogues. Or at least, there are a lot of us out here. It stands to reason that there are two other camps: those in true spiritual communities, and the spiritually dead. Off the cuff, I’d guess the dead outnumber the rest of us. Maybe I’m wrong about that. But as many as one-third of Americans say they’re “spiritual but not religious,” and that seems like a pretty substantial chunk.

Spiritual but not religious” is so well-worn it’s become almost cliché, at least in my mind. But now that I think of it, isn’t it the same thing? Maybe so. Sometimes a fresh turn of phrase makes a difference.

I’ve considered spiritual matters of paramount importance for as long as I can remember. Yet for the better part of my life I’ve been out here on my own, not a part of any formal community or school of thought. I’ve been a rogue wanderer so long I’m not sure I can be anything else. But what does this rogue spirituality mean for my family, for my daughter who is only three years old? Can a lone wolf be a good dad? And thinking about these things makes me realize something that is kind of hard for me to admit: namely, that I have been longing for spiritual community.

I should make clear that I don’t desire a label or an -ism just for the sake of social respectability. But since the birth of my daughter I’ve found myself stretching and growing in ways that surprise me. I want what’s best for her, of course, but it’s more than that. I also have been redefining what’s best for me. The idea of being part of an explicitly religious community remains waaay outside my comfort zone. And yet community is important to me. I’m very active in my community, but it’s all so damn fragmented. We are always looking at pieces and never the whole. Ritual and tradition have great power to make meaning of life, though many of the big secular ones in our society leave me cold, or worse. It would be nice to be able to celebrate holidays that truly reflect the values we cherish. There’s a strength in numbers, too, which might provide a little buffer against those who see the world differently. That might make it a little easier to walk our path from day to day.

These are questions I’d be wrestling with, regardless, but it’s eerie how the recent Project Conversion postings have resonated with me, ripened certain thoughts, and provoked me to seek greater clarity. I’m afraid it’s all still rather incoherent. Clearly this is a work in progress. But these are things I have been thinking about, and I’d rather make mention of them in half-baked form than leave them out entirely.

Lane in the Lens

I’m mentioned briefly in an article published by The Lens: Homeowner or homeless? St. Louis Street resident fights to hang on to what he has.

Hughes is convinced that the gathering momentum against him stems from backers of the Lafitte Greenway, the linear park planned along the abandoned railroad tracks that parallel the canal across from his home. Bart Everson, president of the Friends of Lafitte Corridor, said that while there have been conversations with Hughes about his use of park space for storing building materials and raising chickens, his house is not targeted by the project.

Indeed, the first I’d heard of this was when Karen Gadbois called me today while I was shopping at a thrift store in Vero Beach. I was only vaguely aware of Lane Hughes as the guy who (apparently) was raising some chickens on the old LIFT site, as I observed during our Greenway Ambassador training day.


I wish him the best of luck.

Forty Months


Dear Persephone,

I meant to take notes on all the crazy things you’ve said over the last few weeks. But time got away from me. I remember you said “Trust me!” when we were playing Alphabet Farm. I wrote it down, because it seemed remarkable, but now I can’t remember anything more about it, except that I’d never heard you say that before, and somehow that seemed profound.

One morning when the car wouldn’t start I carried you across the street to Tommie’s shop. After I explained the situation to Tommie, including how you mother got to work that morning, you had one question: “What’s a damn cab?”

I don’t remember a whole lot more, but in my defense you were gone with your mother for roughly a quarter of the time since I last wrote. You spent a week at a friend’s cabin outside Fishville, Louisiana. When you came back I swear you looked and acted bigger. Just like last year.

Just before that we had the countdown to your last days of daycare ever. But I already told you about that. Since then you and your mother have been on summer vacation. I continue to work, but I get a vicarious sense of leisure from you two.

Maybe this would be a good time to mention something you said a couple months ago, which I never recorded. While I was putting you to bed one night, the topic of human mortality came up somehow, and you said, “But I don’t want to die!” I’ve never tried to hide the concept of death from you, the idea that all living things pass away, but I felt for you right then, and deeply. You sounded genuinely afraid. That old fear of death is a universal, and it’s been a mighty emotional force in my life. In fact the only thing that’s taken the edge off that fear, for me, has been you. After your birth, death and dying has seemed a little less scary to me. But that’s hardly something I’d expect you to understand at your tender age. So I said to you, “It’s OK, baby. Nobody wants to die. But it’s not anything you need to worry about for a long time.” I hope that was a good thing to say.

We made a return trip to Vero, Florida, with your maternal grandparents. I can’t begin to describe how magical it seemed to play in the surf with you. There’s something pure and purifying about the action of the waves. So many other distractions are forgotten, and we’re challenged to be most fully present, when a surge of ocean water is threatening to knock you down and wash you away. Actually you still get distracted and you’d have washed out to sea if left to your own devices. But I tried to get you to pay attention when a big wave was bearing down. Seemed like a valuable life lesson.

You were excited to celebrate the summer solstice, which we did today. I was thrilled that you seem to understand the idea of the solstice. “It’s the longest day of the year!” I’d promised we’d make a wreath, Bohemian-style, but travel and lack of planning on my part put that idea on hold. Instead, we frolicked on the beach and constructed a giant sun symbol in the sand, which the rising tide soon washed away. So that was sort of poetic.

Happy Midsummer, baby.

Wounded Tree

The wounded tree that stands at the end of Bayou St. John is even more wounded now.


What happened here? Bark is scattered all around the base of the tree. The biggest shards are immediately evident, but smaller pieces make a complete circle.

For as long as I can remember, the side of this tree that faces the bayou has looked as if a big section was sheared off many years ago, but it seemed to thrive nonetheless. Now, it looks like whatever happened so many years ago has happened again, but I’ll be damned if I can figure what it is. Lightning would be my first suspect, except I’d have thought lightning would char the wood. I don’t see any evidence of carbonization. So then I thought maybe a truck hit it. Trucks don’t normally drive there, but Bayou Boogalooo did take place recently. However, the damage doesn’t seem consistent with that either. The sheared part goes straight into the ground. I don’t think a truck would strike so low.

It makes me very sad to see this. I like trees in general but this one is very special to me and my family. This is where my daughter got her name. I try to stop by there whenever my routine allows and spend a quiet moment. I often do a brief Wind Horse meditation I learned at the Contemplative Academy last year. Sometimes I just look at the tree and admire its beauty and enjoy its shade.

I saw the damage Friday. It must have happened recently. I called Parks & Parkways. I called Parkway Partners. I exchanged messages with the guy who runs the Dying Oaks blog. I’m not sure what more I can or should do.

Amazingly, just as I’m typing the above words, my phone rings. It’s a guy named Troy from the New Orleans Levee Board — calling back about the tree. I didn’t know the Levee Board was responsible for the bayou. Anyhow he is planning to take a look this afternoon and make a determination on the overall health of the tree. Parks & Parkways must have passed my contact information on to him.

I hope this tree is around with us for a long time.

Rising Tide VI

The center where I work is co-sponsoring Rising Tide this year. Here’s your official invitation from the conference organizers.

Rising Tide NOLA, Inc., will present its 6th Annual New Media Conference centered on the recovery and future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on Saturday, August 27th, 2011, 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. at Xavier University, 1 Drexel Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s time to register!

The one-day conference will feature speakers, panel discussions and break-out sessions on the status and future of the culture, politics, criminal justice system and environment of New Orleans. We’ll also be discussing Social Media as it relates to the city and the Gulf Coast. Past speakers include Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland, Harry Shearer, and authors Dave Ziren, John Barry, Christopher Cooper and Robert Block.

To learn about the conference’s history and keep up with details of this year’s event as they’re announced, please visit our website at RisingTideNola.com. You can also go directly to our EventBrite Registration page where you can sign up for the conference until July 1st for $25 ($18 for students). The registration fee includes the program, breakfast beverages with pastries, and lunch. There is also, as always, a Friday night social. All details will be announced as they’re finalized.

If you haven’t already, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for programming updates as they become available. You can also visit the Rising Tide Blog and leave us a message. We welcome your input through any of these channels, so please feel free to contact us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

John, Clint, & New Orleans Jazz

John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL)

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, is one of my personal heroes. That’s why it’s so hard for me to accept that he actually said this.

John Lydon on New Orleans Traditional Jazz by Editor B

There’s only one conceivable response. Obviously someone needs to record a traditional New Orleans-style jazz tribute to the Sex Pistols and/or Public Image Limited. Something with plenty of banjo, maybe featuring Don Vappie or Carl Le Blanc. I’ve heard the Pistols covered in just about every style from disco to polka but I’ve not heard that. Not yet. But I want to. It would be the proverbial hoot.

I can’t even imagine what it would sound like. I can imagine the Hot 8 or the Soul Rebels covering “Holidays in the Sun,” and I think that would be awesome. In fact I personally would give an eyetooth to hear such a thing. But those funky brassbands, while quintessentially New Orleans, do not represent the old-timey sound Mr. Rotten so callously decries. To pull that off we’d need an act like the New Orleans Jazz Vipers or the Hot Club of New Orleans or even Preservation Hall. Can you imagine what it would sound like? I can’t. But I want to hear it.

Who could pull off such a feat? Who bridges the gap between the disparate musical milieus of punk rock and traditional jazz? Surely there’s someone in New Orleans who fits that bill.

Whenever I have raised this question (it’s been on my mind for a good little while now) one answer invariably returns.

JF100424_DSB_Lagniagge_New Orleans Bingo! Show_Clint Maegden

Obvious, ain’t it?

In case you don’t know, Clint Maedgen is the bandleader of the amazing New Orleans Bingo! Show, which might best be described as “punk cabaret.” Moreover, he also plays with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has been one of the primary exponents of the traditional jazz style for half a century now.

Clint is surely our only hope, but he’s so damn busy, and I don’t know him personally. Fortunately at the Chef Menteur show this weekend I met some people who are better connected. We are going to press this case. If you can help, please do. I don’t have any grand scheme, though I can imagine any number being hatched.

Maybe something interesting will come of it.

If so, just remember — you heard it here first.

If not, forget I said anything.

Photo credits:
John Lydon Public Image Limited (PiL) / Shell Smith / CC BY-SA 2.0
JF100424_DSB_Lagniagge_New Orleans Bingo! Show_Clint Maegden / Derek Bridges / CC BY 2.0


My week as a bachelor is drawing to a close. When we did this last year it was pretty tame. I saw some movies, which was exciting enough, and a notable highlight was a trip to the doctor to get some meds.

This year things have been a little different. Still not frequenting the strip clubs — that’s not my style. But I’ve been staying up a little later, drinking a little more, bathing a little less, and generally letting it all hang out.

The week started off with a bang, when the Krewe of Palmyra. Did I mention I was propositioned by a somewhat intoxicated and nearly-naked second liner? It was a joke, I’m sure, but my ego will take what it gets.

I put in almost a full week’s worth of work, but I did take one sick day. My right ear had that “unpopped” feeling which was making me feel off-balance and generally disorientated. I went to see my ENT about it and got some meds: an oral steroid, dexamethasone, to complement the nasal spray steroid I started on this time last year. That gave me some extra time to sit in my underwear here at home editing ROX #96. I’d completed a rough cut by midweek.

I was also kept busy with community meetings: one planning for Rising Tide VI and two related to the Lafitte Corridor. One evening I got together with a Green Party person from Philly who was in town for a conference. We didn’t know each other, but she found the old webpage for the GNOGP and got in touch. We had a good dinner at Mandina’s and some great conversation.

Yesterday morning I rode uptown for my monthly book club, where we discussed Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg. (I found the book disturbing, unpleasant, and absolutely exquisite.) Afterwards I was able to enjoy a leisurely lunch with the group at that Ethiopian place on Magazine Street.

Summer is finally in full effect. I love riding around New Orleans on a hazy, muggy summer day.

But the perfect bookend for this week came on Saturday afternoon in a one-two punch. The first punch was the 610 Stompers Ball Crawl. I didn’t sign up for the fun, but they stopped pretty much right in front of our house for an extended shenanigan which included a Mustache Contest. It was reminiscent of the Krewe of Palmyra, except on steroids. It seemed to be about ten times as big.

And of course, these guys have the moves.

The sheer nutty audacity of these guys is amazing. Of course the 80s workout getups are funny, but it’s truly astonishing to see them moving in unison.

Xy will be jealous. She loooves the 610 Stompers. At least I’ve got some video for her to get a vicarious thrill.

The second punch? Chef Menteur. I threw down some jack (a paltry smidgen to be honest) for their new recording project on Kickstarter (and encourage others to do the same) and that got me an invite to a party/show on a Mid-City warehouse rooftop. Had some of the best pulled pork since I was in the Carolinas, enjoyed some Pilsner Urquell on tap, renewed some old acquaintances and made some new friends, and generally had a blast.

The music was even awesomer than anticipated. Certainly they rocked harder than I expected. Sort of artsy mostly instrumental spacerock.

Xy would have liked that scene too. It reminded me a lot of Bloomington.

All in all it’s been a fun week, but also a full week and a productive one. I’ve hardly had time to miss my girls, but miss them I do, and I’m looking forward to their return which should be sometime today.

Now if you’ll excuse me I really should mow the lawn before Xy gets back.

Update: OK, that took about twelve minutes. I usually leave the yardwork to Xy so this was my first time handling the new push-mower we bought a couple months ago. This was easy, dare I even say fun?

Electric Morning

Some mornings the journey to the workplace is a boring old slog. But not usually, not for me. I try to make a point to stay alert to the world around me. I am usually on bike or foot, which is an advantage. Also, I live in the visually rich and colorful city of New Orleans. Even so, I can get in a rut. And I can be jolted back to alertness. Some mornings are just plain galvanizing.

Yesterday morning was like that, like a psychedelic trip of epic proportions.

And then, at Jeff Davis & Tulane, 10:30 AM: The most surreal sight of a decidedly surreal day.

Reject Work

Maybe you need to view large to appreciate.

Did someone slip some LSD in my oatmeal this morning?

Mid-City Market

There is an unfortunate pattern which sometimes emerges in local reportage, wherein community groups are incorrectly depicted as opposed to economic development. In reality, most community groups merely want to be engaged in the development process to ensure the highest quality outcome. I’ve seen it happen before, and so I get a little nervous sometimes.

Happily in this morning’s paper we have a different scenario. It feels like we got out ahead of the story for once. Rather than being framed as obstructionist we are actually taking credit for generating investment. The reality is of course more nuanced than a single newspaper article will convey. I can’t say more without undermining the win, so I’ll shut up. You can read the story, in which I am quoted, and decide for yourself.

And don’t forget to read between the lines.
Continue reading “Mid-City Market”

Project Conversion at the Halfway Point

For the past six months or so I’ve been following the fascinating spiritual adventures of Andrew Bowen at Project Conversion. The concept is simple to grasp: He converts to a new religion each month, and he writes about it. Anyone who knows me well will understand why this sort of public art/life/video matrix is so compelling to me personally. A certain superficiality would seem to be implicit in the very parameters of the project, but Andrew really puts his heart into it, and pours his heart out in his writings, chronicling the joys and sorrows of his experience. The result is both more profound and more moving than one might expect. I’ve been slowly drawn in, despite the goofy clip-art. If you’re at all interested, this would be a good time to join the “congregation.” June has shaped up to be a sort of break for reflection, and next month he’ll be a Mormon.

I was most looking forward to June, because this month was the only one not designated as a recognizable religion. The schedule simply designated June as “Fringe,” which intrigued me. What could it mean? On June 1, Andrew revealed he planned to “spend some time with lesser-known faiths, sects, and organizations that hang…on the fringe of big, organized religion.” But things have shifted a little. Perhaps prompted in small part by a comment from your truly, it looks as if Andrew will be doing some exploration his own roots this month. Apparently he’s half Lumbee, which is a Native American tribe with which I’m entirely unfamiliar.

That led to a preliminary rumination on The Agony of Identity, in which Andrew posed some big questions.

Who [am I]? Where did I come from? What can I learn from my past? How will these answers influence my future? Am I a created being with some purpose or am I just… here?

He asked readers for our personal thoughts, and of course I relish any opportunity to think about such matters. What follows below merely expands on comments I left on the Project Conversion site.

For some reason, it’s easier for me to go in reverse order.

No, I don’t think I’m a created being, in the sense of being created by a higher being to some purpose, but it would be a mistake to say that means I have no purpose or that I’m “just here.” I believe we must all make a meaningful and purposeful life. I have no issue with people “just” being here, but in my experience we don’t have that luxury. A passive apathetic existence is not a moral option. We must actively engage with the world because we are a part of it.

I take a long view of the past. It’s not just where I grew up, personally, but where did humanity come from? I subscribe to evolution and believe humanity arose naturally without a guiding intelligence. Our history as a species is very interesting (at least to this member of the species) with so many diverse cultures over our planet. Unfortunately, I feel disconnected from my past, on an ethnic-cultural level. That’s part of coming from Germanic stock in wartime America, as the first half of the 20th century was not generally a time when German heritage was celebrated here. There were a couple global wars that kind of played a role in that. But it’s also part of a general pattern of immigrants assimilating into American culture. The last few generations of my ancestors considered this assimilation a marker of success, and indeed I enjoy many privileges in society. But I also feel a sense of sadness and loss and emptiness with regard to heritage and traditions from the Old World, specifically my Scandinavian and Slavic roots. That’s why it’s so fascinating to me to recover what pieces I can.

So much more to write and think about — but other responsibilities beckon. I thank Andrew Bowen for giving me pause to think on such things.

And if you have any thoughts on these matters by all means extend the conversation.

Taking Requests

It must still be finals week somewhere because my “Study” mix is raking in the love.

As I was writing this a rare comment came thru: “I was procrastinating like crazy until I found this gem and put myself to work on my essay which btw is due tomorrow. Thanks!” So maybe it’s not a finals effect. Maybe it’s summer school.

I don’t get a lot of love on 8tracks. The numbers are rather meager, and none of my mixes have racked up more than a hundred listens. At 53 plays, “Study” is not my most listened mix, but with 29 “likes” it is my best-loved. It definitely converts at a higher ratio.

I think I first put this one together by special request of David B. back in October of 2009. Apparently that’s the formula for success.

So: If anyone else out there has any requests, just let me know.

Work in Progress

My girls are enjoying a week at an undisclosed location in central Louisiana this week. So I am playing the bachelor. Not very exciting, really. Mainly I’m doing a lot of post-production work. My goal is to finish up ROX #96.

Here’s a clip.

This project has been in limbo for over three years now. Everything’s in the proverbial can. It just needs editing. It is time to get it done.

Krewe of Palmyra

Yesterday afternoon I heard the sound of a brass band. I stuck my head outside and saw the Krewe of Palmyra coming down Alexander to make a stop at Banks Street Bar.

I thought I’d seen it all. I thought I knew what was going on in my neighborhood, at least, but I guess New Orleans still has a few surprises for me. This is the sixth year for Krewe of Palmyra but I never knew of them before.


So there I was in my bathrobe taking some pictures and one of the second liners had the audacity — the effrontery — the unmitigated gall — to make fun of my scanty attire. Mind you, she wasn’t wearing hardly any clothes herself, so I hardly felt she should criticize me. Also, I want to go on record that I did pull on a pair of undies before leaving the house.

Apparently there’s some overlap between Palmyra and the Krewe of Space Age Love. According to their website, “In early June we participate In The Krewe of Palmyra no more parades in Mid-City and another reason to party protest parade.” I had to read that five times before it made sense.

Spread the Love

They were using the same float they used in the Krewe du Vieux parade. Someone was supposed to remove the penis to make it more “family friendly” but they never got around to it. Oh well.

Sometimes I really love this place.



I’ve been hoarding glass bottles for a while now. Maybe a year. Not everything — just the big ones. Plenty of beer bottles have ended up in the trash. In fact, plenty of wine bottle got trashed too. But there’s something about a liquor bottle. It tends to hang around longer. I build up a relationship with a liquor bottle. It becomes like an old friend. Surely it deserves something better than the landfill.

Eventually I had a tub full of glass. It was so heavy I could barely lift it, and and when I did I worried the plastic tub itself might crack. But I managed to get it into the car and haul it off to Target in Metairie. There’s a recycling center right it front, in Customer Services. I practically filled up an entire grocery cart.

Target Takes Glass

I try not to make a fetish out of recycling. To me, recycling is like voting. It is a civic duty, but it’s not the greatest duty. More like the least. Yes, I recycle. Yes, I vote. I don’t give myself airs that I’m saving the planet or society by these actions. Recycling became a habit for me in 1986 when I was living in Sweden, in a town called Kalix. We recycled just about everything and had very little trash leftover, and that seemed like a positive. I have tried to avoid obsessing about it like my friend Eric, who used to pick up every scrap he found on the streets and stuff it in his pocket to recycle later. I found that behavior charming but kind of overkill. I wonder if he still does that.

The City of New Orleans discontinued its recycling program after the flood of ’05. Since 2007 we’ve been paying Phoenix Recycling $14 per month to pick up our recyclable materials every other week. The base charge was $15 with a one-dollar discount for members of neighborhood organizations. They said they’d lower the price if they got enough subscribers, but that never happened. I didn’t like the system, but Phoenix provided excellent service, and we stuck with them, even when money was tight, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

That all ended last month. The City of New Orleans has (re)launched its curbside recycling program. I’d hoped Phoenix would get a piece of the action, but I guess they didn’t. Here’s a snippet from the last e-mail they sent me.

We’ve appreciated your support over the years. Ours is a niche business and the size changes constantly. You’ve made the decision to pay for something you deem important – together, we recycled over 20 million pounds in 3 years.

Back to glass. Phoenix stopped taking glass in late 2008, and the City of New Orleans doesn’t take glass either.

The authoritative resource on recycling here in New Orleans would appear to be Village Green from our public library. Download the “New Orleans Area Recycling Guide” for a 21-page booklet on the subject. They list three places that take glass, only two of which are available to private citizens: Target, and of course the Tulane Newcomb Art Department. But Newcomb takes only clear glass.

I’m mystified by this state of affairs. For years I have thought glass was the most recyclable of all products. Melt it down and you recapture almost 100% of the material. According to Wikipedia, “Glass recycling uses less energy than manufacturing glass from sand, lime and soda.” But apparently the economics are more complicated than that. They must be, otherwise there would be more of a market for glass. I don’t have faith in markets solving all problems, but it stands to reason that if glass had more value it would be accepted curbside.

Michael Munger makes the case against recycling in general and glass in particular in an article titled “Think Globally, Act Irrationally.” It’s published by the Library of Economics and Liberty, which is supported by the Liberty Fund, which was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. Goodrich in my old stomping grounds of Indianapolis. Small world. I’m not sure I agree with some of their ideological underpinnings, but Munger makes a persuasive argument.

The Billings Gazette would seem to be less ideologically driven, but the message is the same.

The economics of glass recycling have been marginal for some time.

Nationwide, only about 25 percent of glass containers are recycled. That’s compared to 31 percent of plastic containers, 45 percent of aluminum cans and 63 percent of steel cans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In northern Idaho, Kootenai County gave up collecting glass last year. In Oregon, which was the first of 11 states to adopt a bottle deposit law in 1971, Deschutes County stockpiled 1,000 tons of glass at its landfill before finally finding a use for it a couple years ago – as fill beneath an area for collecting compost.

Glass also has piled up at the landfill serving Albuquerque, N.M., where officials this year announced that a manufacturer of water-absorbing horticultural stones would eventually use up their stockpiles. New York City gave up glass recycling from 2002 to 2004 because officials decided it was too costly.

In a sense, glass ought to be the perfect commodity to recycle. It can be recycled an infinite number of times. Melting down one glass bottle and making another isn’t particularly complicated or especially costly.

The challenge is that the main ingredient in glass, sand, is plentiful and cheap – often cheaper than cullet, which is glass that has been prepared for recycling.

Used glass must be sorted by color and cleaned before it can be crushed into cullet that is suitable for recycling into new containers. That contributes to much of the cost of recycling glass, said Joe Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute in Alexandria, Va.

“It’s not just a glass company buying it from your municipal waste company, or recycling company,” Cattaneo said. “Some entity has to clean it so it meets the specifications of mixing it with sand, soda ash and limestone.”

Another cost is transportation. The farther away a community is from glass processors and container manufacturers, he said, the more expensive it is to recycle it.

Clearly, reduction and reuse are even better than recycling. It’s a shame that we seem to have lost what bottle collection programs we used to have in this country. A friend on Facebook suggested selling bottles on Etsy or eBay as craft supplies. Maybe I will start saving the most interesting bottles and sending the rest to the landfill.

My friend Wendy says Houston takes glass at dropoff centers. Bay St. Louis takes glass as part of their curbside program. Are these communities able to make the economics work, or are they taking a loss on glass to make people feel better about themselves? I have an image of in my mind that we are “recycling our way to oblivion,” worrying about trivialities in the midst of the Holocene extinction. But this is just a feeling. What’s the reality?